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Scientific Psychic
2009-10-07
 

Nominative and Objective Cases in English


I winced when I read the headline "Drinks on Who?" written in one-inch bold letters in the October 7, 2009 sports section of the Washington Post. This is the equivalent of saying "Drinks on she?" or "Drinks on I?" instead of the correct "Drinks on her?" or "Drinks on me?". It reminded me of the primitive savage expressions like "Me Tarzan, you Jane" of black-and-white TV days, or Tonto saying to the Lone Ranger: "Him say man ride over ridge on horse."

The nominative and objective case of pronouns is one of the last vestiges of the Germanic origins of English, and it is slowly but surely disappearing. Soon, the pronouns "who" and "whom" will combine into a caseless "who" in sympathy with "you". There is also great confusion about "you and I" vs. "you and me". The words of popular songs like "You and me against the world" by Helen Reddy become imprinted in our mind until they finally don't sound wrong.

In order to use the pronoun cases correctly, it is necessary to understand the structure of the sentences. As a general rule, pronouns in the subject are in the nominative case, pronouns in the predicate are in the objective case. Thus, we say "I saw him" or "He saw me". We would never think of saying "Me saw he" or "him saw I", which is the wrong use of both pronouns. The nominative personal pronouns are: I, you, he, she, we, they. The corresponding objective forms are: me, you, him, her, us, them. Notice that "you" is the same in both cases, so we say "I saw you" and "you saw me". The pronouns "thou" (nominative) and "thee" (objective) which were a familiar or personal form of the formal "you" have disappeared from modern English, but they are still found in biblical passages and in Shakespearean plays.

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