Just this morning my mail included a message from a fellow copywriter who wanted to sell me a course on Tweeting for leads.
It began with “Nowadays us copywriters are being bombarded with…”
“Nowadays us are?” No, no, no!
“Us” is an object, not a subject – and if she’d just removed the qualifying word “copywriters,” she’d have seen her error in an instant and changed that “us” to “we.”
And that’s the simple trick. Simply remove qualifying words or other people, read the sentence aloud, and you can hear which word belongs.
If you read “Us is being bombarded…” you’d know it simply didn’t sound right. The same would be true if you said “Please pick we up at the airport.” And yet, I’ve heard people use “We travelers” as an object.
We travelers had a long night. / We had a long night.
It was a long night for us travelers. / It was a long night for us.
The same kind of confusion surrounds “I” and “me,” and the same cure works.
Little children might say “Me want a cookie,” but by the time they’re old enough for school, most of them know that it’s “I want a cookie.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a child say “Give that to I,” but perhaps some of them do.
Nonetheless, some adults use I as an object word when they include another person in the sentence.
Every now and then I mention the fact that my neighbor with the Master’s Degree uses “I” as an object.
I mention it because every time he says it, I cringe. He doesn’t say “Carol baked a cake for I,” but when his wife was living, he would have said “Carol baked a cake for my wife and I.”
How do you tell a subject from an object?
A Subject is just that – a subject. That’s the person (or thing) that the sentence is about. Often located at the beginning of a sentence, it is the person on thing performing the action of the verb.
An object is the receiver of the action. It very often follows a preposition, such as of, for, about, and to.
Consider the sentence “I love you.” Or perhaps "I have great love for you."
- “I” is the subject, “love” is the verb, “you” is the receiver, or the object.
However, if it happens to be an indirect object, that preposition is merely understood.
Take these sentences for example: “Joe bought a pizza.” Joe is the subject, bought is the verb, and pizza is the object. But that’s not all the information.
"Joe bought us a pizza."
“Us” is the indirect object following the understood preposition “for.” In other words, "Joe bought a pizza for us."
Wouldn’t it sound crazy to you to say “Joe bought we a pizza?”
You also wouldn’t say "Joe bought a pizza for we," “Joe bought I a pizza,” or "Joe bought a pizza for I."
But people like my neighbor would say “Joe bought my wife and I a pizza.”
If in doubt, leave the descriptive word or the other person/people out of the sentence, then read it to yourself. Then you can put the person or description back in - and adjust the verb from singular to plural if necessary.
I can almost guarantee that you’ll “hear” the correct word to use.
Pizza eaters courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Grammar book courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net