Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What Not to Do Wednesday on the I Thing

I'm standing outside of church this past weekend when my mother (the former high school English teacher) turns to me and says, "Did you hear him say it?" She didn't even have to say what the "it" was. Because the "it" is one of those things that drives us both crazy. We can't help but hear "it" anytime, anywhere, anyplace "it" might pop up.

I'm not talking about using "it" so much that a reader has no idea what "it" you're referring to. (Though maybe I should address that little grammatical point at a later date.) I'm talking about this "it": using "I" when one should use "me."

You know what I'm talking about, grasshopper. Saying, for example, "I thought a Dice-o-Matic would make a great gift for Mr. Hall and I." Or how about, "Little did I know that such a contraption could wreak such havoc with him and I." And finally, "Give that sliced-off finger to the nurse or I." Honestly, I feel a little sick just typing those sentences.

Here's the thing, grasshopper. "I" is a subjective pronoun. It is NOT an objective pronoun. You might think it sounds better to say "you, him, or Mr. Hall and I" all the time. But it's only correct when "I" is used subjectively.

For example, "You and I (we're the subject here) should never play with a Dice-o-Matic." That's great (and very true).

And when you have a sentence where you're tempted to use that "I," take a look around and see if you notice any prepositions. Those little words like with, to, of, for, about, and all the others that you should have memorized back in the day. Chances are very good that you will need a "me" if you spot one of those prepositional phrases. As in: "A sliced-off finger is no fun for Mr. Hall or me."

Which also happens to be very true. And an entirely different What Not To Do.