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Tricky Points of Pronoun Usage

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

Pronouns in apposition

A pronoun should 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:

Example Explanation
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.
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.

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 comparison with a subjective pronoun
Ruth likes Jerry better than I.
Complete comparison with a subjective pronoun
Ruth likes Jerry better than I like Jerry.
Elliptical comparison with a objective pronoun
Ruth likes Jerry better than me.
Complete comparison with a objective pronoun
Ruth likes Jerry better than she likes me.

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