|“Ain’t nobody chasin’ nobody nowhere.”|
Hopefully if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ve internalized the notion that YOU SHOULD CHECK EVERY SINGLE PRONOUN YOU ENCOUNTER on the SAT. The most common pronoun errors are pronoun-antecedent agreement errors, but pronoun case questions pop up enough in SAT writing sections that you should familiarize yourself with the ways they’re commonly presented, too, and know how to get through them without relying on “it just sounds weird.”
Pronoun case questions test you on whether you know the difference between “I” and “me”, “he” and “him,” “we” and “us,” etc. Here’s a quick sentence structure to help you organize these:
I chased the dog around the house.
The dog chased me around the house.
He chased the dog around the house.
The dog chased him around the house.
We chased the dog around the house.
The dog chased us around the house.
…and so on. This simple setup is a great way to remind yourself which pronouns are subjective case pronouns, and which are objective case pronouns. If your pronoun is chasing the dog, it’s the subject, and is in the subjective case. If the dog is chasing it, the pronoun is the object, and is in the objective case.
Here’s a complete list of the pronouns between which you’ll need to differentiate on the SAT. Read through this list thinking of the dog chasing sentence in your head.
There are four ways they’ll try to get you here.
- Objective case in the subject. These aren’t that hard to spot, because teachers have probably been drilling proper use of subjective case pronouns your entire life. If you’ve ever had a teacher correct you by saying “My friends and I…” then you know what I’m talking about.
BAD: Me and Gordon don’t ever go to Ravenholm anymore.
GOOD: Gordon and I don’t ever go to Ravenholm anymore.
BAD: Julie and him were throwing up all night after they witnessed the collision of two very full septic tank pumping trucks.
GOOD: Julie and he were throwing up all night after they witnessed the collision of two very full septic tank pumping trucks.
BAD: Ricky and them were caught swimming in the fountain at midnight.
GOOD: Ricky and they were caught swimming in the fountain at midnight.
- Subjective case in an object. These are a bit trickier, because now you can’t rely on your 1st grade teacher’s voice ringing in your ears.
BAD: The raptors had Jeff and he trapped in the freezer.
GOOD: The raptors had Jeff and him trapped in the freezer.
BAD: The motorcycle gang gave Sarah and I something to do on Friday nights.
GOOD: The motorcycle gang gave Sarah and me something to do on Friday nights.
BAD: Erin gave Stacey and he a ride to the train station.
GOOD: Erin gave Stacey and him a ride to the train station.
It’s cool if you use the table I made for the above questions, but the age-old advice applies as a shortcut: when in doubt, take the non-pronoun out of the sentence and read it to yourself. Does it sound fine? Then leave it. Does it sound stupid? Then change it.
That advice, I’ve found, is less than bulletproof for sentences like the ones below, though.
- Pronouns following prepositions. If a pronoun appears after a preposition, it MUST be in the objective case. In the examples below, prepositions are italicized.
BAD: Between Amy and I there are no secrets.
GOOD: Between Amy and me there are no secrets.
BAD: Bullets whizzed by we three as we made our way to safety.
GOOD: Bullets whizzed by us three as we made our way to safety.
BAD: Steve insisted that there was a foul odor emanating from Jessica and they.
GOOD: Steve insisted that there was a foul odor emanating from Jessica and them.
The most dangerous pronoun case questions, in my experience, are been ones that put the subjective case (especially “I”) in a combination after the word “between.” Watch out for phrases like “Between Amy and I…” because they’re ALWAYS wrong. “Between” is a preposition, so it must be followed by “me.” The sentence should read “Between Amy and me there are no secrets.” To approach it from another way, you would never say “between we,” you’d say “between us.”
- Pronouns in comparisons that end sentences. Dangerous, but pretty rare. When a sentence ends in something like “…than me,” or “…as us,” your spider sense should tingle. As a general rule, you’re going to want subjective case when a comparison ends a sentence, because there’s usually an implied verb that doesn’t follow the pronoun, but could follow it.
BAD: Seth is shorter than me.
GOOD: Seth is shorter than I (am).
BAD: Charlie Brown insists that nobody is more lugubrious than him.
GOOD: Charlie Brown insists that nobody is more lugubrious than he (is).
BAD: In that game of Grifball, the red team scored more points than us.
GOOD: In that game of Grifball, the red team scored more points than we(scored).
I should also point out, just because it’s interesting, that there are times when the objective case and subjective case are both OK grammatically in a comparison at the end of a sentence, but the case that’s chosen can alter the meaning of the sentence:
OK: Mike Tyson punched John harder than (he punched) me.
OK: Mike Tyson punched John harder than I(punched John).
If you ask me, it’s best to avoid potentially confusing phrasing as a writer, so neither of the above is great, but both are permissible. Note how the meaning of the sentence changes, though. In the first one, I get punched. In the second one, I do some punching. Who could’ve guessed that this post would get so exciting at the end?
*Who/whom isn’t really tested on the SAT, so this is just bonus information you can use to impress your friends.