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Pronoun Case

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Teacher/Instructor Eva Holtz
Eva Holtz

Harvard University
Perfect scores on the SAT and 4 SATIIs

Eva is a certified admissions counselor and the founder of PrepPoint, a premier test prep company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

So I was thinking a really awesome way to spend a few minutes would be to talk about pronoun case. Now you may not recognize the term but it's a pretty simple concept, it's the difference between 'Caitlin and I went surfing' and 'Caitlin and me went surfing.' Pronouns may have different versions but only one is grammatically correct in the given sentence and this is going to be tested most often in the identifying errors questions on the SAT writing test. In just a moment let's look at a little more detail on how pronoun case works and how you can fix it.
So here's a pretty daunting chart I wanted to share with you of very many pronouns, so the important thing is not that you memorize it or even memorize the headings of it, but just so you understand the concept that pronouns come in pairs, for instance 'I' and 'me' represent he same person but in some sentences 'I' is grammatically correct and in some sentences 'me' is grammatically correct and that goes for every pair in here. So how that plays into the SAT problems is that sometimes you may see the word 'him' and you'll have to check whether 'him' is the best fit or 'he' the other counterpart to that is the best fit for that particular sentence. Now there are a couple of exceptions here, you are not going to be tested on 'you' versus 'you' because they don't change depending on case, same thing with 'it' versus 'it' but the basic idea is that whenever you see a pronoun you may have to check it's pair and see which one belongs in the sentence. Now let's take that and go into detail on the three step process for checking pronoun case for correctness.
You're going to, step one, notice that there's a pronoun connected to another noun, so a pronoun like he, she, it, I, something like that, connected to another noun person, place or thing. And when I say connected, I usually mean that there is going to be an 'and' joining them together, it might occasionally be something else like an 'or' then what you are going to do is take the two pronoun cases like 'I' and 'me' or 'he' and 'him' and see which one sounds better in the sentence in isolation and then based on that you are going to know that the one that sounds better is the one that is right. Let's look at some examples: 'The committee decided that Arjun and me would receive the prize.' The first step is we recognize the pronoun cases being tasted here because we have the pronoun connected to another noun, so based on that we're going to look at the pronoun in isolation and we're going to do that for both versions of the pronoun. So in addition to 'me' we're also going to look at 'I' we look at it in isolation, so we're going to ignore the 'and' and the other noun for a minute and then see which one sounds better in context. So first sentence: 'The committee decided that me would receive the prize.' Not looking so promising let's hear the second one: 'The committee decided that I would receive the prize.' The second one sounds better and so his is the correct version of the sentence and if this were an answer choice, you would eliminate it.
Another example, first of all we recognize the pronoun case being tested because we have the pronoun the 'and' joining it to the other noun. So what we're going to do is test that pronoun with both cases, the 'her' case and the 'she' case. Now remember we test it in isolation so we're going to cross out the noun and the 'and.' Let's read the two sentences, see which one sounds better, first sentence: My mother pointed out that it was time for her to leave for the medical appointment.' Sounds promising, let's check the other one to be sure; 'My mother pointed out that it was time for she to leave for the medical appointment.' That one sounds awful and sure enough the right answer is the first version.
Last example; 'At our meeting, the supervisor presented her idea to Jay and me.' So we know that we are dealing with pronoun case because we have the pronoun, the 'and' and another noun. So we're going to test both versions of this pronoun, the other version of 'me' is 'I' and we're going to test it in isolation, so get rid of these guys and we're going to read our sentences that are left. 'At our meeting, the supervisor presented her idea to me.' Sounds pretty good, how about the other one; 'At our meeting, the supervisor presented her idea to I.' Second one doesn't sound good, second one is wrong and the first one is right. Now let's see what this would look like in an SAT problem.
So here we have a sample SAT problem of the kind you would find in the identifying errors section. To recap how you approach this, you're looking for the underlined portion that's wrong and there will be four choices like that A B and C and D and if none of those is wrong, you're going to look for no error to be your answer. Now the first thing you should do is just read it through and see if anything jumps out at you, let's do that. 'Ever since we hired him as our gardener seven years ago, Edward has brought a bouquet of hand-cut flowers to my wife and me every year on our anniversary.' Now I'm guessing nothing really jumped out at you except maybe you know the pronouns are difficult to judge and we should check this. And to recap we should check this because we have a pronoun 'me' we have a connector word 'and' and then we have the other noun, 'my wife' so to check this we isolate me by crossing out my wife and and we're going to test 'me' to see how it sounds in context, we're also going to test 'I' which is the other version of the pronoun 'me' the other case. So let's read the sentence first with me; ' Ever since we hired him as our gardener seven years ago, Edward has brought a bouquet of hand-cut flowers to me every year on our anniversary.' That sound pretty good let's just check and see if 'I' is any better or what will we think about that. 'Ever since we hired him as our gardener seven years ago, Edward has brought a bouquet of hand-cut flowers to I every year on our anniversary.' Alright, that sounded miserable, so as you can tell me is correct, so actually there's no error here, true question. So that's the SAT question and now let's just do a quick summary.
So the bottom line for pronoun case is simply that first you notice there is a pronoun connected to another noun usually with the word 'and,' then you see which pronoun case, which version of the pronoun like 'I' or 'me' 'he' or 'him' sounds best and finally you decide that the one that sounds best is right. And on the SAT the pronoun given to you is not always wrong, like we saw on the last example with 'me' 'me' could be right and also sometimes unaware is the right answer, so don't forget that occurs twenty percent of the time just like any other answer choice in identifying sentence errors.