I am not exactly a grammar purist. In casual conversation, I’ve been known to dangle participles and mix tenses and pronouns with the best of them. I leave prepositions hanging at the end of sentences, and even use incomplete sentences for the sake of free-flowing conversations. Though I tend to use somewhat more formal grammar in my writing, I sometimes employ partial sentences for dramatic effect. I allow my characters to speak informally so their speech sounds believable when read aloud. As for “Southernisms” — well, suffice it to say I love my “y’alls” and “fixing tos” when I’m among my Southern friends and family.
Yet, there are grammatical errors that clang in my ears even in casual conversation. “I seen that movie yesterday.” “I seen lots of flip-flops on the beach.” Ack! Is it really so much more difficult to say, “I saw?” Obviously, that’s one of my peeves.
My other grammatical button is more insidious, especially because it seems to be gaining in usage, even among people who should know better. I’ve heard it from professors and television pundits, from other writers and people on the street. And the sad thing is, they think they’re being formally correct by using the phrase.
Spot the error in this sentence: My uncle gave some money to my sister and I.
While watching Friday Night Lights last week, I heard Tammy, a lead character who is also a school principal, say to someone, “Would you please leave Becky and I alone for a few minutes?” Again — ack!
It’s a very simple rule. If you remove the name of the other person, would you then say “I” or “me?” In this case, as in the former, it would be “me.” Not “I.”
I blame it on all those mothers and teachers (myself included) who constantly corrected our kids when they asked, “Can Suzy and me jump into this fountain?” “May Suzy and I,” we would reply automatically — before saying no.
We didn’t mean it was alway to be used that way. Now people seem to believe the use of the word “me” is never correct when combined with another name. I’m beginning to wonder if that grammatical rule has gone the way of other obsolete traditions — like the one about never ending a sentence with a preposition.
As I said, I make plenty of conversational gaffes, myself, so I don’t judge those who do the same. These are just my grammatical pet peeves. What, if any, are yours?
And now, y’all, I’m fixing to go make some dinner for my family and me.
(By the way, don’t get me started on those non-Southerners who use y’all as a singular pronoun in their writing. It’s ALWAYS plural — please forgive the shouting, that’s another pet peeve for another post.)
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