Why case is important

rogersgeorge on March 6th, 2016

Here’s a comic I read regularly (link to the original: http://maximumble.thebookofbiff.com/2013/08/13/681-play/). However, the comment underneath is what I’m interested in.

Here’s the comment:

When my first child was a baby we would get him educational toys. This one will be good for dexterity. This one will help learn counting. This one sings the alphabet. Now he’s getting interested in things I liked as a kid. He has a few Transformers that I think I have played with more than him.

Look at the last word, him. It’s in what we call the objective case. That means it has to go with the preposition with. Spelling the whole thing out, the sentence means “…I played with more than I played with him.” Maybe that’s what the commenter meant, but I suspect he meant that he played with the toy more than his son did; in other words “…more than he.” Or slightly better, “…more than he did.” You need the subjective case (other languages call it the nominative case) to be the subject of the verb played.

When you compare things with phrases such as more than, less than, and as much as, be sure you say what you’re really comparing.

Okay, I have to add a postscript. Look at the last sentence in the comic itself. it should be “You bought this for whom…”! harrumpf.

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Case part four

rogersgeorge on November 30th, 2011

Last time I wrote that objective case is for direct objects and other things. Today we’ll look at one of those other things. Think of the objective case as appropriate for anything that’s not a subject and not possessive.

That means you use the objective case with prepositions, and that’s where many people mess up. And it’s your teacher’s fault! Remember you used to say, “Me and Tom are gonna go play in the park.” Your teacher would pounce on you, saying, “Tom and I are going to the park.” And you would endanger your life by saying “Oh! Do you wanna come to?”

I couldn't find a comic that had to do with the objective case, but Loose Parts is a good comic.

We humans are pattern recognizers, and that pattern of putting someone or something else ahead of “I” became imprinted in our minds, so we used it all the time, even after prepositions. This produced sentences like ” The company finances were worked out between the company president and I.”

Sorry—”between” is a preposition. So are a large number of other words. Google “preposition” if you have any doubt what they are. (By the way, “like” is a preposition. The book title Black Like Me is correct.) After a preposition use me, us, him, her, or them. English doesn’t have a separate form for “you” except in the joke, when you act all high-falooting and say, “Whom are youm?” (To which you would get the  reply, “I am me-em.”)

We don’t get it wrong when the pronoun is alone, so a good way to check if you have a sentence correct is to leave out the other person. Suppose your English teacher scolded you and Tom for getting your pronouns wrong. You would not say “He really gave it to I,” you’d say “He gave it to me.” So you know the sentence should be “He gave it to Tom and me.”

I mentioned in the first post about case that the only reason to mention the other guy first is that it’s more polite. If you name yourself first, though, you will use the correct case. It’s easy to say, “He really gave it to me and Tom for not being humble.” That isn’t humble, though, so don’t do it.

That’s it for grammatical case for a while. Fill out the form on the right for some more pointers on how to write well.