3 Particularly Perilous Pronoun Problems
Language and writing skills are critical to success in business. And grammar mistakes are easy to make—especially where pronouns are concerned. Here are some easy tricks to help you consider how to choose the right pronoun.
What’s wrong with this sentence?
Please let Arman, Milton or myself know if you cannot attend the meeting.
To determine correct usage, eliminate the other people in the sentence: Would you say the following?
Please let myself know if you cannot attend the meeting.
Myself should be used only in two situations.
Who or Whom
Pronouns serve as subjects, objects or possessives. If you have a question about which form to use, consider its function in the sentence.
One of the most common pronoun problems in business occurs with who and whom. To make the right choice, try the following simple exercise.
(Who, Whom) do I need to invite?
Remember, who is subjective—it serves as the subject of the sentence.
Whom is objective—it serves as the object of the sentence.
Is the word you’re looking for doing the action or is it being acted upon?
Rephrase the sentence to find out: I need to invite (who, whom).
(If this is still confusing, as a test, try replacing “who” with “he” and “whom” with “him”.)
Rephrasing clarifies that the word you’re looking for is being acted upon.
I is your subject in both sentences, making the word you’re looking for the object. Because the objective case of this pronoun is whom, that’s your answer. You then just plug your answer into the original sentence.
You and I … Me and You … Him and Me
It’s easy to learn the right usage. First, break the compound subject into two parts.
Doug and me went to the conference.
Doug went to the conference. Me went to the conference.
Would you say, Me went to the conference? The correct pronoun in this sentence is I.
Doug and I went to the conference.
Once you get used to breaking down the compound, you will be able to do it in your head. To make this easier, try putting yourself first in the construction. It’s often easier to hear the usage if you put yourself first.
You and me need to turn in our reports.
Me (and you) need to turn in our reports.
The second version of the sentence highlights the fact that me is incorrect. Then you can break it down further if you need to, in order to figure out the correct pronoun.
You need to turn in our reports. Me need to turn in our reports. I need to turn in our reports.
Finally: You and I need to turn in our reports.
Writing comes easy to some people. Grammar and punctuation rules are a snap. But, if you’re not one of these people, you don’t get a pass. It’s still important to your career to write well and know the rules … starting with these tricky pronouns.