CASE AND USE
Most personal pronouns have different forms for the nominative, possessive, and objective cases.
The appropriate form to employ depends on the way the pronoun is used in the sentence.
A Nominative Case form (I, we, you, he, she, it, they) must be employed when the pronoun is used:
(1) As the subject of a verb.
He went out for a walk.
They bought a new house.
(2) As a predicate pronoun (the same grammatical construction as a predicate noun).
My sister is she.
It is I.
It was they.
The use of the objective case in these constructions is incorrect. Do not say “My sister is her,” or “It is me.”
(3) In apposition with the subject of a verb or with a predicate noun.
John F. Kennedy — he about whom many books have been written — was president during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The candidate was Barack Obama — he who would become president.
(4) In the Nominative Absolute construction.
They having reached a decision, the jury was ready to deliver its verdict.
(5) In direct address
Okay, you guys, let’s get going.
An Objective Case form (me, us, you, him, her, it, them) must be employed when the pronoun is used:
(1) As the direct object of the verb.
The panhandler asked us for money.
I saw her there.
(2) As the indirect object of a verb.
My wife made me dinner.
I sent him a package.
(3) As the object of a preposition.
I have several paintings by him.
The soldiers shot at them.
That’s between you and me (not I).
(4) In apposition with an object of a verb or of a preposition.
They formed a neighborhood gang — him and his band of losers.
Note. A pronoun theoretically can be used as an objective complement: “Still grieving for their dead mother, the children made their step-mother her.” However, in actual usage the objective complement is seldom a personal pronoun.
The Possessive Case of pronouns, like that of nouns, denotes possession.
The shorter possessive forms — my, our, your, her, and their — are used when a noun follows: as, “This is my car.”
The longer forms — mine, ours, yours, hers, and theirs — are used when no noun follows: as, “This car is mine.” (One still encounters in older English and in poetry the longer forms occurring before nouns: as, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”)
Pronouns in the possessive case do not take an apostrophe: thus, its, hers, theirs. The form it’s is not a possessive case pronoun, but is the contraction for it is: as, “It’s a good idea.” Compare, “The campaign lost its momentum” (possessive case).
Case after “Than” and “As”
The case of the pronoun in comparisons using “than” and “as” requires special attention. Should we say, for example, “He is taller than I” or He is taller than me”; “He is as tall as I” or “He is as tall as me”? These are known as elliptical constructions, and the proper form of the pronoun can be easily determined by expanding the sentence to its fullest. For example, “He is taller than I (am),” “He is as tall as I (am).” Here it is easy to see that the proper form of the pronoun is I because it is the subject of the verb am.
Similarly, the sentence, “She likes Frank more than me” means “She likes Frank more than (she likes) me,” in which me is correctly in the objective case because it is the object of the verb likes. In addition, the sentence, “She likes Frank more than I,” means “She likes Frank more than I (do).
Copyright © 2012 Thomas Fasano.
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