October 25, 2012

Vote for me

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama, but with a case problem:

"You know, I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I'll be voting for he and Vice President Joe Biden next month," he said on CBS' "This Morning."
This error (the use of nominative case after a preposition) is usually observed in coordination structures, as in "Jimmy bought the book for Harry and I." I think it's a case of hypercorrection, the use of a non-standard form resulting from a (misdirected) effort to use a correct form. In a subject position in a finite clause, strictly speaking, a pronoun should take its nominative form ("I go," not "Me go"), but in a coordination structure, many speakers find the accusative acceptable, at least in non-formal contexts ("Harry and me went to the party"). However, in formal contexts, nominative case is required ("Harry and I went to the party"). Speakers may generalize that "Harry and I" is better than "Harry and me"), but this is only true in the subject position of a tensed clause, it does not hold for the position of an object ("Sandy invited Harry and me", not "Sandy invited Harry and I"). The same holds for the use of nominative case after a preposition ("between you and I"), as reported hereThe effort to use the "better" form (the one with higher prestige) may in this case result in the use of an ungrammatical form -- hypercorrection. 

Rule of thumb: After "and," use the pronoun you'd use if there were no "and" and no coordination.

  • I left. --> Harry and I left.
  • She left me. --> She left Harry and me.
  • I'll vote for him. --> I'll vote for Harry and him.
An extra note on "for:" Unlike "between," for can also act as a subordinating conjunction (or "complementizer"). In this function, it introduces a clause, i.e. it must be followed by a noun phrase and a verb phrase. In this scenario, the noun phrase can be in nominative case. That's why we sing "For he is a jolly good fellow" rather than "For him...". 

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