November 25, 2011

Grammar Despair: Do I Say "Him and Me" or "He and I"?

I just came across this great piece that I really enjoyed reading and I want to share with you for fun. Because learning should be fun. ;)


The Norwegian Artist: Norwegian Musings and Polish Thoughts
written by Carolyn Henderson, manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art
January 4, 2011

My mother was one of 11 children of two first-generation Polish farmworking immigrants. In order to attend high school, she worked as a live-in maid. She attended community college while working as one of the nation's first female airline registration agents in the 1940s. That's as far as her formal education went.

Ah, but her informal education kept her up until 1 or 2 a.m., reading a book and looking up EVERY SINGLE word she didn't know. My father commented that it took her several months to finish a volume. She, however, knew the meaning of the word "matutinal," while my father, a PhD in microbiology, did not.

She also had an incredible grasp of English grammar, something she hammered into the heads of her children whether we listened or not. And face it -- whether or not you're listening, and children frequently are not -- over 18 years of hearing, "I and He are in the nominative case, whereas Me and Him are in the accusative," something trickles through.

So, do you say, "Me and him went to the movies," or "He and I went to the movies," or "Him and I went to the movies," or "He and me went to the movies"?

In other words, do you use the nominative case (He and I) or the accusative case (Him and Me)?

Firstly, relax. You are not my mother's daughter. It's okay to drop off the nominative and accusative part.

While you're at it, drop off the He or Him, and see what you have left.

It's like this: Do you say, "I want to go to the movies," or "Me wants to go to the movies"?

I'm guessing that all of the non-Neanderthals out there use the first phrase.

Let's move on: Do you say, "He wants to go to the movies," or "Him wants to go to the movies"?

Yup: "He wants to go to the movies."

So, if both you and Bob want to go to the movies, you'll say, "He and I want to go to the movies."

(Yes, it is also correct to say, "I and he want to go to the movies," but it sounds uber, uber grammatically fanatically correct, sort of like something my mother would say.)

Okay, let's move on to another sentence:

"This gift basket is for her/she and me/I."

Oh God. Help.

Stop. Breathe. Get rid of one of the people, probably the girl since you're more important.

Do you say, "This gift basket is for I," or "This gift basket is for me"?

It's for me, of course!

And do I share this basket with her or she?

"This gift basket is, unfortunately, also for her, which means that I only get half of the items in it. I'll take the chocolate-coated macadamia nuts."

Putting it all together, you'll then say, "This gift basket is for me and her," or "This gift basket is for her and me," the latter which sounds a bit smoother to my ears.

That's it. There aren't many magical formulas out there, but this one is as close as it gets. Even non-professional writers have to write -- Artist Statements, Artist Biographies, press releases, and resumes are a part of every professional artist's life -- and it's good to be confident that what you're writing resonates well with the Queen and her English.

Oh, and by the way, "Matutinal" means having to do with morningtime, as in, "She performed her matutinal ablutions," something that sounds wildly erotic but is really my mother's way of saying, "She put on her make-up."

So, did "She and I put on our make-up," or "Her and Me put on our make-up"?

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