Tag Archives: pronouns

Who that?

Here’s a little quiz for anyone who is interested in relative pronouns.

Please jot down which sentence in the following sequence you believe is correct. 

1(a)  I am grateful for all the friends that came to my birthday party.
1(b)  I am grateful for all the friends who came to my birthday party.

2(a)  Thanks to all the veterans that served our country.
2(b)  Thanks to all the veterans who served our country.

3(a)  Everyone that has a pet should shop at PetSmart.
3(b)  Everyone who has a pet should shop at PetSmart.

4(a)  I know a lot of people that use “that” when “who” is the better choice.
4(b)  I know a lot of people who use “that” when “who” is the better choice.

If you chose (b) in each set of choices, you get an A. Perhaps I should say, you’d get an A if I were grading the quiz. It turns out that some authorities are more lax than others on this issue.

Before issuing a premature refresher, I did some research on relative pronouns and, in this case, restrictive relative pronouns, where the antecedent happens to be a person rather than a thing.

I was taught that people—and nouns that represent people—should be followed by “who” rather than “that.” In the examples above, friends, veterans and everyone refer to people.

However, a couple of sources maintain that both “that” and “who” are correct and are a matter of preference rather than rule.

But wouldn’t you agree that, in reference to a person, “who” is more polished, more personal and more exact?

Feel free to disagree; you can be the reader who stood up for “that.”

You’ll notice I haven’t yet addressed “that” versus “which.” Even though I know the rule on restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, it is one that trips me up frequently. Or is it which? I know, it’s that.

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They is wrong

According to the Fake AP Stylebook’s April 21 Facebook post:  “Avoid using masculine pronouns in sentences where the subject’s gender is not specified.  Broads find it offensive.”

What this broad finds offensive is the subject/pronoun disagreement that often occurs as a result of a writer’s attempt at political correctness.

I am a firm believer that political correctness and grammatical correctness are not mutually exclusive.  (Though if I did have to choose?  Hmmm.)

It is incorrect to suggest that “everyone have their say” or “the winner deserves their prize.”  In these instances, because the subject is singular,“their” should be “his.”   “He” and “his” are considered gender neutral, even though they are masculine pronouns.  For those sensitive to gender equity in grammar, “his or her” is perfectly acceptable.  Or,  if we know that the subject, say “winner” in the earlier example, is female, we may say “the winner deserves her prize.  “Their” is just plain wrong.

Also, remember that “everyone” is singular, even though it sounds like a lot of people.  Every one.   So please do not say “everyone is entitled to their opinion.”  

I recently stumbled on a blog that claims to specialize in writing.  I won’t call out the blogger by name because I know how hard it is to churn out copy day after day, and I am the first to admit that, in so doing, I make mistakes regularly. There is a difference between making a mistake and deliberately breaking a well-known rule.

The blogger wrote this week, “It helps a writer’s ego as well as their ability to write if they have peers to read and give feedback on their work.” 

The writer is a “he” or a “she,” not a “they;” otherwise, it would be “writers’ egos” and “writers’ work,” plural.  And if the choice is to go plural possessive, please note where the apostrophe goes.

Six days earlier, the same blogger wrote:  “Everyone has read a bit of bad prose or poetry in their life and access to the Internet seems to make it easier to point out other’s grammatical and spelling errors as well as their downright awful writing in general.”

Oh, really?

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Lay down your peeves

Personally, I find the “Got milk?” ad—and every tired play on it—peeve-provoking.

I found myself tempted to ask, “Got peeves?”  in a tone of ridicule but thankfully, I had my answer before I had the chance to type those clichéd words.

Comments I received on a recent piece on poorly written song lyrics showed that my readers are bursting with word usage gripes, off the radio as well as on.

So, friends, this playground is safe.  Let ‘em out. 

I have a top 10 list of my own, in no particular order.  If there’s sufficient interest, we can explore each one in detail at some later time.  

Apostrophe used to form a plural.  I don’t like to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it’s tempting when the tag reads From: The Smith’s

“I” used as an objective pronoun, as in please send your response to Mary and I.  If Mary drops out, send your response to I?  Really?  Conversely, some of the same people bugged by I turn right around and say, she is as old as me.

“Myself,” other than as a reflexive pronoun, as in, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact myself.  You cannot contact myself because you are not I.  Also, “myself” is not an intelligent substitute for “I.”

“Different than” instead of “different from.”  This one appears to have cropped up lately and is getting out of control, even among the most articulate of speakers.  Someone please do something.

Prepositions as sentence-enders.  I realize the rules have relaxed on this one and I am willing to accept that, where it makes sense.  Where it does not make sense:  “How long were you gone for?”  “Where did you get that from?”  “How late will you be out til?”

Random quotation marks.  If you are going to put something in quotes, someone better have said it.  Who said, Wipe your “Feet?”   This example comes from the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks  – check it out for a chuckle. 

Mispronunciation.  One example, Pulitzer is PULL-it-ser, not PEW-lit-ser.  NU-cle-ar, not NU-cue-lar.  I could go on—and will.

Punctuation outside the quotation marks, when writing in the United States.  I realize the Europeans do it differently but, until Jeopardy is filmed in the UK, I’d like the clue-writers to put periods and commas back inside the quotes.

Adverbs preceding absolute adjectives—such as unique, true, accurate or pregnant.  Nothing is “very unique,” “so true,” “completely accurate” or “a little bit pregnant.”  It is or it isn’t.

People who don’t think good grammar matters, especially public speakers.  I read an analogy once that likened good speech to a practiced art.  The commentator noted that, when we go to a musical performance and a singer hits the wrong note, we don’t say, “that’s all right, I know what note he meant to sing.”

Wow, it’s hard to stop at 10.

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