Pro Exercise: Personal Pronouns

By Daniel Scocco

Since we launched Daily Writing Tips Pro, we received many emails from readers who wanted to know more about the exercises. That’s why we decided to release a couple of samples. Below you’ll find one:

In each of the following pairs of sentences, choose the one that uses the correct form of personal pronoun.

1.
a) Mom asked Jane and me to help with the groceries.
b) Mom asked Jane and I to help with the groceries.

2.
a) Joe and myself are competing for the award.
b) Joe and I are competing for the award.

3.
a) Nobody likes ice cream as much as I.
b) Nobody likes ice cream as much as me.

4.
a) Mary and she went to school together.
b) Mary and her went to school together.

5.
a) Does the sound of him snoring bother you?
b) Does the sound of his snoring bother you?

Answers and Explanations

1.
a) Mom asked Jane and me to help with the groceries.
The pronoun is part of the object of the sentence — the part that the subject refers to. The form should be the same as if the person referred to by the pronoun were mentioned alone, rather in company with Jane (“Mom asked me to help with the groceries,” not “Mom asked I to help with the groceries”).

2.
b) Joe and I are competing for the award.
A reflexive pronoun (one ending in -self or -selves) should be used only to refer to another pronoun, as in “The difference between us is that I wouldn’t put myself in danger like that,” where myself refers reflexively to I. The form is the same as if Joe were not part of the statement (“I am competing for the award”).

3.
a) Nobody likes ice cream as much as I.
The final word in this sentence is a predicate nominative — a renaming in the predicate position of a noun or pronoun appearing as the subject. Because the predicate nominative renames the subject pronoun, it takes the form of a subjective pronoun (I), not an objective pronoun (me). The me version implies that the person is being compared to ice cream (“Nobody likes ice cream as much as they like me”).

4.
a) Mary and she went to school together.
The pronoun in this sentence is part of a compound subject; it should be in the same form it would be if the reference to Mary were omitted (“She went to school,” not “Her went to school”).

5.
b) Does the sound of his snoring bother you?
Either of these sentences is correct, but “his snoring” places the emphasis on the snoring, while “him snoring” emphasizes the person doing the snoring. The point of the sentence is the sound, not the person producing the sound, so his is better.

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9 Responses to “Pro Exercise: Personal Pronouns”

  • Matt Gaffney

    In re #4, I think most good writers and speakers would begin the sentence with the pronoun, not the proper noun, i.e., they’d write/say “She and Mary went to school together.”

    In re #5, while the writer’s comment is technically correct, i.e., where does the emphasis lie?, the illustrative examples are misleading in that “his snoring” is a gerund preceded by a possessive adjective, not a personal pronoun.

    The topic is “personal pronouns,” yet one of the choices isn’t a personal pronoun, although, to be fair, many, many people mistake possessive adjectives for personal pronouns since the form is the same. Their status is established by their use in the sentence, not by their form.

    This would have been an opportunity to illustrate that gerunds must be treated as nouns with examples such as “Does his snoring bother you?” vs. “Does him snoring bother you?” The examples have nothing to do with personal pronouns except to show that they can’t modify gerunds.

  • Ed Good

    I disagree with your answer to #3. The word “I” is not a predicate nominative, which would follow the verb “to be” or a linking verb. Here the verb in the sentence is the action verb “likes.” Instead, the word “I” should appear because it serves as the subject of an ensuing implied clause: … as much as I (like ice cream).

  • Roberta B.

    For #3 – Another way to remember the correct form is to complete the sentence (even if silently): “Nobody likes ice cream as much as I” (do), or “…….as much as I” (like ice cream).

  • Dale A. Wood

    I agree with Matt Gaffney in that “his” is not a personal pronoun, but rather it is a possessive pronoun. I also agree that gerunds are always preceded by possessive pronouns or possessive nouns, and not personal pronouns or nominative nouns.

    Here it is helpful to know something about other European languages. Gerunds are preceded by nouns or pronouns in the genitive case, and in English, the genitive case has evolved into the possessive case. That is straightforward. For example, “Fred Flintstone’s” can be viewed as being in the genitive case, or the possessive case, if you insist.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    I was taught in elementary school in the United States that the following is an elliptical sentence. In other words, one word or more words have been omitted, but they are understood to be there:
    “Nobody likes ice cream as much as I.”

    This really means “Nobody likes ice cream as much as I do,” or
    “Nobody likes ice cream as much as I like it.”
    This is not merely a case of a mnemonic. This is a case of those words being there in a virtual way. They simply are not written down.

    Here is another example: “Nobody hates antiscientific thinking more than I,” meaning “Nobody hates antiscientific thinking more than I do.”
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    “A reflexive pronoun (one ending in -self or -selves) should be used only to refer to another pronoun.”

    This is incorrect, and I can give you examples immediately:
    1. Abraham Lincoln himself wrote the Gettysburg Address.
    2. Darth Vader himself killed Obi-wan Kenobi.
    3. Carly Simon herself sang “Nobody Does It Better” for the film “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
    4. William Shatner himself narrated, “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship ENTERPRISE…”

    Here, the reflexive pronouns clearly refer to nouns.
    D.A.W.

  • Sharon Lee

    In the four examples above (using himself/herself) why are those words even needed?

    Darth Vader killed Obi-Wan Kenobi.
    etc.

    To me, they say the same thing more concisely.

  • venqax

    @Sharon Lee: Huh?

  • Martha MacIntosh

    If you dispense with all the rules, which I have always found very difficult to follow, and break the sentences down to more manageable bits, figuring out the correct usage it usually quite simple.

    Yes, we normally say, “She and Mary went to school together,” but if you are going to switch the order, just take out Mary and you simplify the sentence to “She went to school.”

    Likewise, “His snoring bothers me,” “Mom asked me to help with the groceries,” and so on.

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