Maria Murnane

A former PR executive who abandoned a successful career to pursue a more fulfilling life, Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series (Perfect on Paper, It’s a Waverly...

When to use HE/SHE and when to use HIM/HER

I’ve written more than once in this space about the maddening (yet seemingly ubiquitous) trend of using “I” when “me” is the correct pronoun. If presidential candidates can’t even get it right, I wonder what hope there is for my good grammar crusade. But I refuse to give up!

While not as common as the I/me error, nearly every day I hear someone make a similar mistake regarding she/her and he/him. Here’s a refresher lesson about the difference:

“He” and “she” are subject pronouns. A subject does something.

  • Gloria goes to the store. (Gloria is the subject)
  • She goes to the store. (She is the subject)
  • David makes me laugh. (David is the subject)
  • He makes me laugh. (He is the subject)

“Him” and “her” are object pronouns. Objects have something done to them.

  • I saw Gloria. (Gloria is the direct object)
  • I saw her. (Her is the direct object)
  • I gave David the letter. (David is the indirect object)
  • I gave him the letter. (Him is the indirect object)

The above examples are pretty obvious to the ear. It would sound jarring if someone were to say, “Her goes to the store,” or “I gave he the letter,” right? Where people run into trouble is when there is more than one object in the sentence. For example:

  • I took a photo of David and Gloria.
  • I took a photo of him and Gloria. (CORRECT)
  • I took a photo of he and Gloria. (INCORRECT)

To some ears the third option above might sound right, but it’s not. Let’s remove the second object in the sentence, which in this case is Gloria:

  • I took a photo of David.
  • I took a photo of him. (CORRECT)
  • I took a photo of he. (INCORRECT)

In the above examples, the answer again becomes obvious, right? So, remember this: When in doubt, take Gloria out!

-Maria

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