The Curiosity Shop

Those Conjunctions!

I'd like to point out a frequently made and easily correctable mistake that I have seen dozens of otherwise well spoken members of society make repeatedly.

The problem seems to be that people get confused by the word "and" or "or". "Should I say 'John and me' or 'John and I' or 'myself and John' or what", seems to be the question that many people have a hard time answering. It appears that an awful lot of people give up, just pick one, and always use that regardless of where it is used in a sentence.

It is very simple to always make the correct choice. You don't have to learn any complex grammar rules. All you have to do is ask yourself, "What word would I use if the other person and the "and" weren't there. Odds are you know the right word to use in the simple case, and the addition of "and" and another person do not change what is correct for the place in the sentence where the word appears.

Some examples:

  1.    "Just give it to John and I".
       Leave out the "John and" and see if this is right.
       "Just give it to I"
       No, that's wrong.  It should be "Just give it to me."
       So you should say, "Just give it to John and me."
       "Me" is correct whether "John and" is there or not.
  2.    "Me and Pete drove to work."
       Leave out the "and Pete" and see what you have.
       "Me drove to work."
       No.  It should be "I drove to work."
       Additionally, as a matter of courtesy rather than grammar, you
         should put yourself last in a grouping.
       So you should say, "Pete and I drove to work."

Proper names such as "John" and "Pete" are always right and so there was only one word to worry about in the above examples. Let's try something harder. The same rule applies however.

       "He and them went to work."
       Leave out the "and them".  You have "He went to work."  "He" is OK.
       Leave out the "He and".  You have "Them went to work."  No, it
         should have been "They went to work.".
       The answer: "He and they went to work."
And now for the most complicated example.
       "Them and I went to visit he and his family."
       Take it one part at a time.  Let's try the first "and" first.
       "Them went to visit he and his family."  Nope, should be "they."
       "I went to visit he and his family."  Yes.
       So far we have "They and I went to visit he and his family."
       Now let's tackle the second "and".
       "They and I went to visit he."  Wrong again.  It should be "him".
       "They and I went to visit his family."  "His family" sounds good.
       Putting it all together:
       "They and I went to visit him and his family."  That's right.
A few last little comments:

All my examples used the word "and". It is no different for the word "or". In the 4th example above "They or I went to visit him or his family." is correct, though somewhat unlikely.

You may be thinking that you couldn't possibly run through all these thoughts as you're speaking. With a little practice, concentrating on getting each word right by itself, you probably can. Even if you can't you can do it for your writing and after a while that should make it easier for your speaking.

Hope this helps, and yes, my mother was an English teacher.

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