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Tricky Points of Pronoun Usage


This section covers some relatively tricky points which are no longer standard in spoken English, though many people still insist upon them in formal writing.

Pronouns in Apposition

A pronoun should also be in the subject case when it is in apposition to a subject or subject complement, and in the object case when it is in apposition to the object of a verb, verbal, or preposition:

RIGHT Three craftspeople -- Mary, Albert, and he -- made the accessory for Jerry.

The phrase "Mary, Albert, and he" is in apposition to "craftspeople," the subject of the sentence.

RIGHT The accessory was made by three craftspeople, Mary, Albert, and him.

The phrase "Mary, Albert, and him" is still in apposition to the noun "craftspeople," but that noun has become the object of the preposition "by," so the pronoun "him" is in the object case.

RIGHT The three craftspeople involved were Mary, Albert, and she.

The pronoun "she" is part of the subject complement, so it is in the subject case.

"Us" and "we" before a Noun

A first-person plural pronoun used with a noun takes the case of the noun. If the noun functions as a subject, the pronoun should be in the subject case; if the noun functions as an object, the pronoun should be in the object case:

We rowdies left the restaurant late.

The restaurant owner mumbled at all us slow eaters.

Using 'than' or 'as' in a Comparison

In elliptical comparisons, where the writer has left some words out of a sentence, the case of the pronoun at the end of the sentence determines its meaning. When a sentence ends with a subjective pronoun, the pronoun must serve as the subject of the omitted verb. When a sentence ends with an objective pronoun, the pronoun must serve as the object of the omitted verb:

Elliptical
Ruth likes Jerry better than I.
Complete
Ruth likes Jerry better than I like Jerry.

Elliptical
Ruth likes Jerry better than me.
Complete
Ruth likes Jerry better than she likes me.


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