He, She, Him, His, Her, Her

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Is it her? No, that is wrong. It should be Is it she?  The meaning is clear if we reverse it and say Her it is, which is plainly wrong, whereas She it is, is plainly correct.

Or to put it another way, Is it her? begs the question of ‘Her’ what? Her dog, for example?

None of this is my natural language. I make the mistake all the time. Tamara is a much better speaker of English and she gets it right all the time.

So we were talking about this mix-up, and how people speak. Suddenly, in a blinding flash of insight, I noticed something about the English language.

We, wrongly, say Is it him?, whereas the correct language is, Is it he?

And that is when it struck me that we say her and her dog.

But we say him and his dog.

Females only get her.

Males get him and his.

Why is that?


Apropos Nothing

Leaves on the ground in Cambridge, yesterday, so beautiful in their place in the universe.

They grew on trees
They fell from trees
If the worms didn’t eat them
They’d be up to my knees

12 Comments

  1. Aww, I do like the concluding poem! Pleasantly quirky!

    I struggle with this grammar issue a lot. It’s confusing because I never really found out what the “correct” way is. In morphology, we learned that “him/her” is the object case, whereas “he/she” the subject case. Following this logic, it would indeed be “it is s/he”.

    On the other hand, my teacher impressed on me that when I’m pointing myself out in a picture, I should say “This is me”. So how the heck? Did my teacher teach it wrong? It’s quite likely, actually. Or is it a different case? Like when you “humblify” yourself by the object case?

    This is quite funny because my language has seven cases – each has its own ending, all the different endings for grammatical genders and numbers – yet I don’t struggle with these seven cases as much as with the two English cases.

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  2. People in my home town have a way of saying ‘me’ instead of ‘my’, which seems to work well with the last line of your poem, giving it a jaunty feel.

    English does have ‘hers’, although not for the instance you quote – for example, ‘the dog was hers’. That probably doesn’t simplify anything though!

    English is a living changing language, so ‘correct’ is not always as black and white as it might seem, especially when you throw in the differences between formal, written and informal, spoken language. If a phrase like ‘Is it she?’ sounds uncomfortable, one idea is to rephrase it, for example ‘Is it Mary?’, ‘Is it the lady?’, ‘Does she?’ etc. That doesn’t solve the quandary, but does remove the problem.

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    • Interesting about me for my. In the north of England some people say a very short mi (like a contracted me) for my.

      Yes, there’s hers, and as you say, English is a living language. Do you use gotten? My wife, who is American, says it is one of the few words that are not in British English that are so entrenched in her use of English that she cannot think of what to use in its place.

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      • No, I haven’t gotten around to that yet. Only joking. I am from north west England. My sweetheart is from Mississippi – I picked up y’all from him almost immediately.

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  3. Joan E. Miller says

    Very good! I love your little rhyme.

    I too know the correct grammar to use, but it does often sound better to be incorrect. I notice the incorrectness all the time when people speak or write. Recently on TV, someone said “myself,” no doubt trying to sound very correct. But he should have said “I”. Shouldn’t he? Actually I don’t know when I would use “myself.” Odd!

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    • I agree – wrong sounds easier on the ear sometimes, if I say so myself…

      I love the Irish way of saying ‘It is himself, so it is.’ – I just love it.

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  4. Pingback: Gutenberg Media Library Issue – Photograph Works

  5. Naturally, I’m faced with this too. When I feel uncertain, I quickly think of which one it would be in my own language and then I get it right. To say [corresponding to] «That is me!» in a photo, in Swedish would sound laughable.

    Now I’m off to brush me teeth LOL

    Liked by 2 people

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