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A common grammatical error made by 'smart' people

  1. Jun 19, 2009 #1
    I've noticed that educated native English speakers often use phrases like "The time will come for you and I." when it should be: "The time will come for you and me." I won't explain why. If you don't see it, you need to study English grammar even you are a native English speaker. I wonder if this type of error occurs as frequently in other Indo-European languages.

    An even more common error is "It's me!" This is almost universal, to the point that it's probably an accepted exception to the rule now; but how many people even know the rule? This is not equivalent to the French "C'est moi!" which is correct. Again, does anyone know why?
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
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  3. Jun 19, 2009 #2

    CRGreathouse

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    The first example is classic hypercorrection. I have no good explanation for the second.
     
  4. Jun 20, 2009 #3
    My question wasn't clear. Since English is the required language for this forum, I just want to see if 1) PF participants know the rules for these two English examples. 2) Why is the French example correct when on the surface it seems similar the incorrect English "It's me!"; 3) Does anyone know of similar examples of widespread misuse of the equivalent pronoun in other Indo-European languages? (I know the answer to the first question, I think I know the answer to second question, but I don't know the answer to the third question.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
  5. Jun 20, 2009 #4

    CRGreathouse

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    On thinking it over, I don't think I agree with #2. "It" is in the nominative, so "me" is correctly in the accusative. ("I am it" would be possible as well, but this is different in emphasis.)

    I'm looking up some Latin texts to check for their use of ego vs. me.
     
  6. Jun 20, 2009 #5

    fluidistic

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    Yes I know one big error that many French speaker do. I even saw it in a book (assimil) to learn French for Spanish speaker. They very often say "J'habite à Paris" instead of "J'habite Paris". Google for it, you'll see a lot more "J'habite à..." than "J'habite ...".
    Any dictionary will tell you which is wrong and which isn't.
    By the way it means "I live in Paris".
    Edit : In Spanish many people say and write "darse cuenta de ..." instead of "darse cuenta de que ...". Even the president of Argentina among with many Argentine newspapers do the error.
    It's a very common error.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
  7. Jun 20, 2009 #6

    symbolipoint

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    "The time will come for you and I." when it should be: "The time will come for you and me."

    Choose "me" because this is the object of a preposition. You choose "I" when the first person singular word acts as a subject.

    "It's me!" This is almost universal, to the point that it's probably an accepted exception to the rule now;

    One point of view is that how people USE a language determines the rule, but here is a good standard way to deal with this example: "is" as a componant of the contraction, "It's", is a linking verb and therefore equates two subjects. The example can well be changed to "It is I".
     
  8. Jun 20, 2009 #7

    tiny-tim

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    I disagree with this rule

    "me" or "I" or "moi" in "it's me" or "it's I" or "c'est moi" isn't the accusative, it's the emphatic.

    so the question is, what is the emphatic in English … is it the same as the nominative, or as the accusative?

    Since English derives from French and German (what is the German for "c'est moi"?), mostly French, it seems sensible to follow the French rule and use the accusative form for the emphatic.
     
  9. Jun 20, 2009 #8

    turbo

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    There are far more egregious errors propagating through subcultures of our young people (primarily). For example, don't you cringe when you hear someone say "Me and my friend seen a movie (etc) yesterday."? Either grammar is not taught properly in our schools, or it is ignored in popular use.
     
  10. Jun 20, 2009 #9

    CRGreathouse

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    Thus has every generation claimed....

    It was enlightening for me to read this sort of commentary on the degeneration of intellect and loss of the beautiful language in (translations of) ancient Greek texts. Similarly, the arrival of new media has always prompted a similar response. I was similarly enlightened to read the reaction of an older generation to the widespread introduction of reading, which was to destroy the oration of the younger. It put the TV vs. reading (passive/active) debate of my youth, or the present Internet vs. TV (isolating vs. shared experience) of today into a different light.

    Sidenote: I can't now remember which text had the reading vs. oratory discussion, which I believe was contemporary to Aristotle. Has anyone else read this?
     
  11. Jun 20, 2009 #10
    In Dutch we have a similar issue. For example, people often say 'meer dan mij' (more than me), or even 'meer als ik/mij' (more as I/me), while it is supposed to be 'meer dan ik' (more than I).
    The error of using 'als' (as) here in stead of 'dan' (than) can be explained because in German one would say 'mehr als...'.

    But I've never heard anyone use the word 'me' in a sentence such as 'it's me' in Dutch.
     
  12. Jun 20, 2009 #11

    RonL

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    I get lost in all the acronyms, and tex short cuts, I also have a hard time with how people use "a" and "an", but I don't have much room to wiggle in the finding fault department.:biggrin:
     
  13. Jun 20, 2009 #12
    Actually in phrases like 'It's me.' or 'It's her.' the second pronoun is a predicate nominative. The verb 'to be', as an intransitive verb, doesn't take an object. However nobody says "It's I." or "It's she." At best, someone might say "It is she." However if you extend the sentence to "It is she who first explained the problem." it sounds less stilted. Consider that if we re-phrased slightly "She is the first who..." it sounds perfectly normal as opposed to "Her is the first who...". There's no doubt the nominative case is the rule here. It's really a matter of whether "It's me."; "It was her." are allowed exceptions to the rule. Some feel English has far too many exceptions already, which makes it so difficult for non native English to learn the language.

    In the case of the (correct) French "C'est moi"; 'moi' and toi are disjunctive pronouns, which do not exist as such in English.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
  14. Jun 20, 2009 #13

    Pengwuino

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    I remember in the Latin course I took, someone noted how badly the current generation is treating the English language. The professor replied that every generation seems to think the generation after it seems to be destroying the language. That figures but with the proliferation of computers and texting and all this junk, I swear there has to be at least a large acceleration in how much the language is being destroyed right now. Dont u think so 2?

    Did anyone else find themselves trying to be more grammatically correct in their postings in this thread? :rofl:
     
  15. Jun 20, 2009 #14
    I agree there are far more egregious errors; but my point is that well educated native English speakers think they're speaking correctly when they say "Joe took Diane and I to the station". These same people would never say "Joe took I to the station". Also "Joe took me and Diane to the station." is perfectly grammatical, but 'refined' speakers probably wouldn't choose this phrasing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
  16. Jun 20, 2009 #15

    cristo

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    I've got no problem with circumventing grammatical rules when speaking: after all, isn't that essentially where dialects come from? I do, however, like people to adhere to such rules when writing, since it's awful to read passages riddled with grammatical mistakes.

    One of my pet hates is when people don't use adverbs like, say, "John ran quick down the street."
     
  17. Jun 20, 2009 #16

    CRGreathouse

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    I don't consider that grammatical in English -- aren't numbers supposed to go 3, 2, 1 (he, you, and I / him, you, and me)? In Latin the numbers go 1, 2, 3 (ego, tu, et is / mē, tē, et illum).

    I wouldn't say, "I and you go to the store", I would say, "You and I go to the store".
     
  18. Jun 20, 2009 #17
    I don't know if that's a grammatical issue or one of style. You might say "That's an issue between me and you." or reverse the object pronouns.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
  19. Jun 20, 2009 #18
    It seems we use 'me' in many places where French uses "moi". French has a complete set of mostly morphologically distinct disjunctive pronouns which are used for emphasis. English lacks disjunctive pronouns as such. Possibly this usage crept into English in Norman times (when many French words entered the English vocabulary) although I don't think it was ever formally recognized as 'proper' English. English speaking countries, to my knowledge, don't have agencies which regulate language like the French Academy and a similar agency in Spain, so common usage often dictates correct speech over time. However, too many deviations from the rules is not a good thing for an international language. Note the rule itself is basic grammar: Predicate nominatives and subjects of independent clauses take the nominative case.

    For example: "He is bigger than me", but the extended sentence is: "He is bigger than I (am)." In (correct) French: Il est plus grand que moi. but never Il est plus grand que je (suis). French also has disjunctive constructions which can't be translated directly into English such as Elles et eux sont ici. We can't meaningfully translate this into English using pronouns. Probably the best we can do is use nouns: "(The) girls/women and (the) boys/men are here." What's correct usage in French isn't necessarily a model for correct English.

    PS: I think the correct German is Es ist ich.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2009
  20. Jun 20, 2009 #19
    Why would you expect their dialect to conform to some recently-invented prescriptive grammar? Statistically the street kid has far better grammar than the academic (e.g., the rules may be different but the sentences conform more tightly, fewer malformed sentences, fewer "um"s etc). Disabuse yourself through S. Pinker's "The language instinct".
     
  21. Jun 20, 2009 #20

    CRGreathouse

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    When you (properly, in my view) drop the notion of prescriptivist grammar, how do you determine what is a malformed sentence?
     
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