So, oftentimes, I go on my Facebook and find many people’s status updates in which they complain about bad grammar. They even go as far as to claim superiority over others who are not as learned in the technicalities of the English language. “Um, it’s ‘their,’ not ‘there.’” “This is why the Oxford comma matters.” “Good grammar is sexy.” “God, why don’t you just kill yourself because your grammar sucks.” And, to be honest, I sometimes find myself feeling the same way. But, after years of editing, meeting with students and taking my writing classes, I’ve come to realize that I my “superiority” is not at all deserved. When I edit and am baffled by a certain phrasing of a sentence, I constantly ask Google—because AskJeeves is so two thousand and late—what the actual grammar rules are. And, in the end, I feel so dumb after realizing how much I actually don’t know about the extremely complex English language. So, I’ve ceased to judge others’ bad grammar, lest I want to be called a hypocrite. I mean good grammar is a luxury anyways. It takes teachers well-informed enough to point out the specific conventions of the English language, without giving the lazy advice, “Just use your ear.” By the way, that is one the worst pieces of advice I ever got in regards to academic writing. How can one use one’s ear if one is only exposed to bad grammar? Our ear is often wrong.
So long story short, with as little pretention as possible, I wanted to stop making you all feel bad about your bad grammar and actually teach you something that even the most “skilled” often mess up.
This is one of the most misunderstood rules that confuse the hell out of students. When do we use “who?” What about “whom?” Aren’t they the same? Does it really matter?
Once in a while, I will ask my students which one of these sentences sounds correct:
To whom do I give this? Or To who do I give this?
Now, if you were to put this is spell check, you’d know which one was correct and accept it without question. But, if you didn’t, you might give me a variety of responses with a multitude of strange logic. It’s the first one because it sounds more refined. It’s the second one because it’s concise. And as Mrs. Iactuallyneverlearnedgrammar said, “Concise writing is always good.”
First of all, it’s the first one. “Whom.” And it’s not because it sounds “refined.” A refined tone isn’t always correct. As a matter of fact, it brings attention to the possibility that you’re bulls*&ting. The reason “whom” is correct has to do with case. You see, there are three forms to a pronoun, two that I will be referring to here.
There is the Subject Form (I, He, She, We, They, Who) and the Object Form (Me, Him, Her, Us, Them, Whom).
We use the subject form if the pronoun is conducting the verb. For example, in the case of the verb “give,” the sentence would read, “I give the present,” not, “me give the present.” I think that’s simple enough.
The object form is a little more tricky to some, so here are the two easiest ways to remember its proper use. First, you use the object form if the pronoun is “receiving” the verb. For example, “Randy gives him a present,” not “Randy gives he a present.” It may sound simple, but let’s look at a variation of the sentence I used earlier.
I am going to give this to who? Or, I am going to give this to whom?
If one were to look at this without any knowledge of grammar, one might think either could work. I mean they sound fine, don’t they? But, for those who pat themselves on the back because their grammar is sooooooo great, then it matters which form is used. “Whom” is receiving whatever “this” is. So, therefore, you use “whom.”
The second instance you use the object form is as follows. Now write this down if you want to remember the rule: If a pronoun follows a preposition, such as “from,” “in,” “above,” etc, then that pronoun must always be in the object form.
Take for example the phrase:
Between you and I, she is ugly.
Now, all joking aside, when one reads this, one might think it’s completely correct. It actually sounds quite…refined. But, it’s absolutely wrong. Why? Because pronouns “you” and “I” come after the preposition “between.” And because of this, they both must be in object form.
Between you and me, she is ugly. This is correct.
Got it? No? Here’s another one:
The stars that hover above her and I splatter across the canvas sky.
Beautiful no? But, wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s:
The stars that hover above her and me splatter across the canvas sky.
Pronouns “her” and “me” follow the preposition “above,” and therefore must be in object form. Got it? Good.
So, now you get it. And I’ll be honest, the more I learn about grammar, the more I realize that I don’t know everything. As a matter of fact, you might’ve found other grammar mistakes scattered across this post. But, nonetheless, let’s stop making people feel bad about speaking or writing incorrectly. Let’s not put our noses up in the air whenever we see someone confuse “their” and “there,” and point out how stupid he am. Did you catch that? Hope so. Let’s be good students and good stewards of grammar. Besides, what’s the point at being good at grammar if we don’t want to encourage others to perfect their own? To be an a$#hole? I hope not!
PS. Feel free to point out any typos or grammar errors I make.