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American Grammar Checkup: Traps for the Unwary, Part 4: Pronouns

American Grammar Checkup: Traps for the Unwary, Part 4: Pronouns

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This is the fourth in a series highlighing common errors that are easy to make and miss when we're writing.

You can see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3聽by clicking on the links.

Everyone who has seen my posts over the last three years knows I'm a nut about using language correctly, especially using pronouns correctly.

Recently I saw this sentence, written by a very smart person:

Us dog lovers were having fun at the dog park!

It broke my heart.

But it's something a lot of folks think is correct, and it probably goes unnoticed many times.

How about this one?

Mom cooked a nice dinner for we kids.

Or this one?

Her and her grandmother ate dinner.

In each case, the pronoun usage (shown in bold) is wrong. But if you're not sure or you're not thinking clearly, you might not notice it.

How do you know what to do? Remove everyone (dog lovers / kids / grandmother) in the sentence and focus only on the pronoun.

  • Would you ever write or say, "Us were having fun at the park"?
  • Would you ever write or say, "Mom cooked a nice dinner for we"?
  • Would you ever write or say, "Her ate dinner"?

No, you know you wouldn't. And just because you're adding a word or two after the pronoun does NOT mean you change the pronoun. If you've identified the correct one by itself, keep it that way when you write your sentence, adding back those words you took out.

So, just to be clear:

Yes: WE dog lovers had fun at the dog park!

Yes: Mom cooked a nice dinner for US kids.

Yes: SHE and her grandmother ate dinner.

BUT: If the third sentence were written differently -- "her grandfather and her grandmother ate dinner" -- you would use "her" in both places because it's functioning as a possessive pronoun in there. (Or you could write "her grandparents" or "they" and simplify things completely!)

Isn't English fun?

Questions? Comments? Talk to me, folks!

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Comments

David B. Grinberg

5 years ago #6

Your grammar advice is always helpful and appreciated, Susan. Thank you and keep buzzing!
#5
And maybe she did, Paul \! Love that, and thanks!
Great reminders, Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks, and easy examples to help us bees make sense.
Thanks so much, Laurent Boscherini, for sharing my post! I really appreciate it!

Claire L Cardwell

5 years ago #1

Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks - despite my many silly jokes about favour, flavour etc. etc. and how Cillantro is something you give to a troubled horse. Corriander it what you use for Curries. I actually started really reading one of your articles again. Well to me that last sentence sounded v. clumsy and overworked, but I ate my hores in the park? I actually scanned to see how many interesting little wisdoms there were. I do firmly believe that if you want to make sure you don't drop your hypenated-post participle wot sit thing (and the British invented it.) you have to go to an American for Grammer/Grammar and Queen Elizabeth 11 for spelling.

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