When a Pronoun is the “Subject” of an Infinitive…

By Maeve Maddox

I’ve written several posts about the error of beginning a sentence with an object form of the pronoun. For example:

Me and my brother want to get matching tattoos.
Her and her husband want to buy a digital camera.
The neighbors and us decided…

In each of these examples, the pronoun is being used as the subject of a verb. Because the pronoun is standing as the subject of the verb, the subject form of the pronoun is called for:

My brother and I want to…
She and her husband want…
The neighbors and we decided…

There is, however, a grammatical context in which the object form of a pronoun may correctly stand in front of a verb form.

The exception occurs when a pronoun stands in front of an infinitive.

Reminder: the infinitive form of the verb is the present form with “to” in front of it: Ex. to go, to seem, to run, etc.

When a pronoun precedes an infinitive, it takes the object form:

My mother wants me to learn computer programming.
We never expected them to move away.
The principal told him and the other boy to go home.

Here, taken from the web, are some examples of pronoun errors with the infinitive:

They told my friend and I to get up and move.
I wanted he and I to watch our kids grow up together
My parents expected my brother and I to do well in school.

Corrections:
They told my friend and me to get up and move.
I wanted him and me to watch our kids grow up together
My parents expected my brother and me to do well in school.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


7 Responses to “When a Pronoun is the “Subject” of an Infinitive…”

  • Minna

    Stating the existence of an infinitive as the rule puzzles me (non-native here…). I would think the object form in the examples is caused by the words “want”, “tell”, and “expect”, not by what happens to follow. Just like you would use “me” in all these cases:
    They told my friend and me to get up and move.
    They told my friend and me a story.
    They told my friend and me. (E.g. as a response to “Why didn’t they tell anyone?”)

    If you have this “in front of an infinitive” rule for the first case, you need completely different rules for the next two.

    I would think that the object form is needed because the pronoun is the object of telling/wanting/expecting/etc. There just happens to be an infinitive in the sentence sometimes.

  • Minna

    I have to correct myself that “object” is not the best word choice when I say “the pronoun is the object of telling/wanting/expecting/etc”. The right word escapes me now but I would say maybe “target.”

  • Maeve

    Minna,
    I could have been clearer in my explanation above. I’ll try again.

    Compare these sentences:
    Charlie wants me.

    Charlie wants me to learn computer programming.

    In the first sentence, me is the object of the verb “wants.”
    Charlie wants what? Charlie wants me.

    In the second sentence, me is not the object of “wants” because it does not answer the question “Charlie wants what?” This question is answered by the group of words beginning with me and ending with programming.

    The phrase with the infinitive is the object of “wants.” Charlie wants me to learn computer programming.The word me belongs to this phrase. Here me is the subject of the infinitive “to learn.”

  • Minna

    Ah, of course. Thanks for the explanation!

  • Mike

    For the example:

    “I wanted him and me to watch our kids grow up together.”

    If you took out the “him” would it be, “I wanted myself to watch…”? Actually the “myself” seems unnecessary when I read it back.

    But my point is, why isn’t it, “I wanted him and myself to watch…” only because you wouldn’t say, “I wanted me to watch…”?

  • Maeve

    Mike,
    “Myself” is used when it repeats the subject.

    In the model sentence “myself” can’t replace the “me” because the “me” belongs to a separate subject/verb construction.

    “I” is the subject of the verb “wanted.” “Me” is the subject of the infinitive “to watch.”

    “Myself” is used to restate “I” in a cluster of words that includes the same verb.

    I hit myself in the eye.
    I myself solved the crime.
    I solved the crime by myself.

    In the following example, the “myself” stands in front of an infinitive, but note that here “myself” is the object of the verb “willed,” and not the subject of “to keep.”

    I willed myself to keep going.

    Hope that makes sense.

  • Cathy

    If the infinitive is “to be,” does the subject of the infinitive remain in the object case?

    It was to be him who won the prize.

    I am not the person whom I was meant to be.

Leave a comment: