11 July 2014

Hurriedly ...

I've just got back to my computer, and have enabled most of the comments offered.

I have capriciously decided not to allow yet another category: comments including the grammatical error "We must respect he who is the King of Tonga". We do not, in English, say "we must respect he [nominative]"; we say "We must respect him [accusative]". A curious idea seems to be growing up that whenever the relative pronoun "who" is used, it has to be preceded by a nominative. It most certainly doesn't. This is the same sort of error as using the nominative for the second of two linked names: "He spoke to Theodore and I". We do not in English say "He spoke to I"; we say "He spoke to me". So: "He spoke to Theodore and me".

I once heard a colleague refer to "Paul and I's study".

A less spectacularly horrible usage which is getting common is to make genitive only the second of two linked names. "Michael and Anne's house" is incorrect. It would imply that we were talking about two objects: (1) Michael; and (2) Anne's house. If we are talking about a house which belongs to both Michael and Anne, the correct form is "Michael's and Anne's house".

The correct thing for that colleague (who, incidentally, was a Wykehamist, heaven help us) to have said would have been: "Paul's and my study".

So there. Dixi.


Scott said...

The case error with "who" amazes and horrifies me every time, and it is indeed getting more common. I'm thankful for Ms Livensparger, who taught me and my 14-year-old classmates how to diagram sentences. There's not a diagram in the world that allows "...to he who..."

Et Expecto said...


It would be much appreciated if you would subject the utterances of BBC announcers to the same critical analysis. They seem to havevery poor standards.

PS Weather forecasters are even worse.

Matthew said...

I wonder, Father, whether at your (re-)Ordination the command 'Let he who (is to be ordained? I can't remember the exact form of words) come forward' was given. When I heard this in the Archdiocese of Cardiff a few years ago I charitably put it down to the possibility that English was not the speaker's first language.

Patricius said...

While I am also averse to the bad grammar of the lower echelons, I don't think that the modern generations (lamentably, my very own) can be blamed for this defect, especially since English spelling primers generally begin with the words: "the cat sat on the mat." No wonder literacy is at a low ebb! When the first glimpse we get of the language of the Prayer Book, of Donne, of Byron and of Tolkien is this banal, slightly distasteful image.

Why don't they begin with "I love God," instead?

OBLATVS said...

Concerning the usage of the genitive S as mentioned in the example brought by you, wouldn' t the grammar rule be the opposite? I mean, if the sentence is "Michael and Ann's house", wouldn't that mean that there's a single place which belongs to both of them?
Thank you for helping a non-native speaker,
Fr. Clecio

Don Camillo SSC said...

In Bristol we often say, "He gave it to I." So there!

dcs said...

I tend to prefer the form "Paul's study and mine."

Matthew Roth said...

I am not sure about the usage of the pronoun when "who" is used. But I can say that in American English, one makes only the second name possessive when it belongs to both subjects of the sentence.

Doodler said...

"Michael" and "Anne's house" are two entirely distinct entities.
"I took a picture of Michael and Anne's house" would imply a photograph of a man together with a house! I know that "Michael's and Anne's house" sounds odd, but Fr Hunwicke is, as usual, correct. A less odd, but more accurate way may be to say "The house belonging to Michael and Anne, or even "the house of Michael and Anne" so putting both of the occupants into the genitive case.

Doodler said...

Surely "Paul's study" and "mine" implies two separate rooms? Unless Paul has both a study and a coal-mine?

Jesse said...

I have for weeks now been bothered by the dubium about "Michael's and Anne's house". I have not yet looked up the right answer in Fowler's Modern English Usage. However, I must say that my own natural usage (Canadian, modified by an eight-year sojourn in England and ten years of marriage to a Newfoundlander) agrees with what the Chicago Manual of Style has to say:

7.22 Joint versus separate possession

Closely linked nouns are considered a single unit in forming the possessive when the thing being “possessed” is the same for both; only the second element takes the possessive form.

my aunt and uncle’s house
Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe
Minneapolis and Saint Paul’s transportation system

When the things possessed are discrete, both nouns take the possessive form.

my aunt’s and uncle’s medical profiles
Dylan’s and Jagger’s hairlines
New York’s and Chicago’s transportation systems
Gilbert’s or Sullivan’s mustache