Monday, 11 May 2020

The King and I

This is a "common mistake" post. The kind of thing that gets pedants and language snobs like me screaming at the radio. You've all heard it. Gordon Brown did it, Prince Harry did it. Everyone on Made in Chelsea does it. And these are all people who have had the most expensive education money can buy. They will say something along these lines:

"My parents brought my brother and I up to tell the truth." No. It should be "My parents brought my brother and me up to tell the truth." Why? Because both "my brother" and "I" are objects of the verb "bring up." English doesn't have many objective forms (the "accusative" in an inflected language) but it does have them for pronouns, where "I" is the subject form (nominative) and "me" is the object form (accusative).

How to avoid ever making this mistake: Take the other person out of the sentence: "My parents brought I up to tell the truth." Does that sound right to you in Standard English (leaving dialect forms out of it)? Then change it to "me" and put the brother back in the sentence.

I have seen many published books with this mistake in them, which could get me on to the subject of editors. One to keep for another day.

I've named this post because my mother once said excitedly to me, "the king and I are on at the Essoldo!" That's a different kind of mistake, one of number, which we can talk about another day.

Question: Why would it be OK to say "I saw the King and I at the Essoldo" but not "She saw the king and I in the procession"?

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