Pronoun Mistakes #1: TV Characters
When it comes to nonstandard grammar in the mouths of television characters, I expect the professionals–like FBI agents, medical examiners, and college professors–to model standard English. When they don’t, I always wonder if the scriptwriter or the actor is at fault.
Here are some examples from my recent viewing:
Incorrect: You and me are going to [do something about this].
Correct : You and I are going to [do something about this].
This line is spoken by a school counselor played by Whoopie Goldberg in an episode of the television comedy series The Middle.
Me is an object form. “You and I” is the subject of the verb are.
Incorrect: That’ll buy Castle and I enough time to [do something].
Correct : That’ll buy Castle and me enough time to [do something].
This line is spoken by Detective Kate Beckett in the crime series Castle. The character Beckett attended law school for a time before entering the NY police academy.
In this example, the pronoun is the indirect object of the verb buy: “buy [for] Castle and me.” The object form me is called for.
Incorrect: Can I speak to whomever’s in charge?
Correct : Can I speak to whoever’s in charge?
This line is spoken by Detective Foyle in Foyle’s War, a British series that begins during World War II and continues into the 1950s. I don’t know what kind of education was required of a police detective at that time, but I don’t like to hear Mr. Foyle make grammatical mistakes; he’s one of my favorite characters and, besides, he’s English!
Even though the object form whom is falling out of general use, when a who word follows a preposition, a speaker’s instinct is to reach for the object form, as in the familiar title For whom the Bell Tolls and the formulaic phrase, “To whom it may concern.”
In this example, the who pronoun stands immediately after the preposition to, but it is not the object of to. The object of the preposition is an entire clause: “whoever is in charge.” Whoever is the subject of the clause.
Incorrect: Me and my colleagues are going to try (to do something].
Correct : My colleagues and I are going to try (to do something].
This line is spoken by California Bureau of Investigation consultant Patrick Jane in an episode of The Mentalist.
The pronoun is part of the plural subject of the verb “are going.” The subject form I is called for. The polite convention is to put other people mentioned in the subject before the speaker: “My colleagues and I.”
It’s possible that an occasional grammatical slip is in keeping with this character’s lack of formal education. According to the backstory, Jane is self-taught, the son of a carnival con artist. On the other hand, he has learned to present himself as an educated person. A little later in the same episode, he does use pronouns correctly: “You and she were good friends.”