Beth Fine

Educational Fiction Author – Serious Thinker – Child at Heart

My Pet Peeve

Bar none, my biggest pet peeve is the Misuse of the Nominative, Objective, and Possessive Cases, especially coming from those who should know better!

A day rarely goes by that I don’t hear pronoun misuses emitting from professional communicators (newsmen, commentators, radio talk show hosts, and preachers). Their misspeaks continue to surprise me. Surely, these communicators learned the importance of using the proper pronoun case and subject agreements from public speaking training, homiletic classes, or staff grammarians. Maybe not.

Of course, it is forgivable to misspeak in an impromptu interview. We all make mistakes in grammar in casual conversation or talking off the cuff or straying from a script. However, when broadcast regulars read (and don’t change) common mistakes made on a teleprompter’s pre-written text, they best look over their shoulders to see the line of young broadcast hopefuls, chomping on the bit…waiting to dethrone them. Better yet, their first course of action should include challenging their station’s news writers. If not highlighted, nipped in the bud, such mistakes proliferate as daily parlance. And then, our publicly-schooled audiences who already struggle enough with correct English grammar, syntax, and word choices, will be led further down the primrose path.

You may have heard the following mistakes which have jumped out at me recently:

“She gave it to him and I (me).”
“The government does this for you and I (me).”

Strangely, I cannot recall ever hearing a professional say, “She gave it to I,” or “The government does this for I.” In those cases, the word “me” would most likely roll out off the speaker’s tongue so automatically, he would not even need to engage his brain. What boggles my mind — the lack of self-correction once he utters the wrong pronoun. To me it signals either his surrender to contemporary vernacular or sheer ignorance of the error. Either way, Egads!

“It was comforting for you and I (me).”
“We didn’t know what was expected of he and I (me).”

Such a fingernail-on-a-chalkboard mistake, as above, is egregiously compounded when the speaker emphasizes the wrong pronoun as if to make his point more important. Unbeknownst to his cohorts and him, that faux paux diminishes his creditability immeasurably more. Perhaps, I should have said “to his cohorts and he” to make my point. Hmmm.

“I want to ask if me and my friends (my friends and I) can go to the mall?”
“Me and my daughter (My daughter and I) took a trip over Spring Break.”

At the same time, a curious convolution of logic occurs with the use of “me” as a subject. This mistake, once expected from toddlers learning to talk, has become quite commonplace for adults. Not even the computer’s grammar check gets their attention. It seems we are no longer shocked when music/movie stars, broadcasters, and even teachers confuse the pronoun cases ignorantly or carelessly.

“You are the love of my life.”
“You have committed a heinous crime.”
“You students in the auditorium should go back to your classroom.”

My next pet peeve is the unresolved incongruence of 2nd person pronouns. Since the modern removal of “thou, thee, and thy,” we now have no way to express “you” as a personal, familiar, or intimate pronoun. Unlike many languages, we must use the formal “you” as a blanket for all situations, formal and informal.

Because of political correctness, creative grammar, or contemporary adjustments, a huge, often-ambiguous burden has been placed on poor-little, overused pronoun, “you.”

* we can no longer use the general “you people”
* we have gradually given up using the proverbial “you”
* it is passé to express the neutral “one” for the suggested “you”

Or perhaps this accommodation has happened for a simpler reason: “You” can’t be beat as a word with an easy rhyming sound with “true” for songwriters. But that may be a moot observation since few genuine love songwriters have survived the “novelty” of Rap (a whole blog topic in itself).

“One in ten will die before their (his) first birthday.”
“A person should always turn in their (his) paper on time.”
“I told everyone on the girls’ softball team to put on their (her) uniforms.”

(This double error should require a singular pronoun for everyone and team.)

The above examples present the toughest battle of all. It is sad enough to see “there” and “they’re” if interchanged with the proper use of “their.” But, using the plural “their” for singular situations is a travesty of grammatical accuracy. Language experts have shamelessly caved to the sophistry of self-conscious gender correctness. Try as I do, I hear bells ringing in my head when a speaker exchanges the plural pronoun “their” for the singular pronouns of “his” and “her” and “one’s.”

So, for an informal, unsophisticated review, I have written out the pronoun cases which other languages seem quite capable of handling efficiently:

Nominative Case

Singular / Plural
1st person: I / we
2nd person Familiar: thou / thou
2nd person Formal: you / you (y’all)
3rd person: he, she, it, one / they

Objective Case
Singular / Plural

1st person: me / us
2nd person Familiar: thee / thee
2nd person Formal: you / you (y’all) 
3rd person: him, her, it, one / them

Possessive Case
Singular / Plural
1st person: my / our
2nd person Familiar: thy / thy
2nd person Formal: our / your (y’all’s) 
3rd person: his, her, its, one’s / their

Genitive Case
Singular / Plural
1st person: mine / ours
2nd person Familiar: thine / thine
2nd person Formal: yours / yours (y’all’s) 
3rd person: his, hers, its, one’s / theirs

If English is our first language, maybe we should prove it.

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