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Preachers, Prepositions, and Pronouns:

An English Lesson From the Pew

By Kara Beth Huddleston

Jesus did not die for you and I. God did not send the Holy Spirit to you and I.

Are you calling me a heretic? A heathen?

Just for extra emphasis, let me say, “Jesus does not live within you and I.”

Not a heretic at all, you see. I am simply a critic.

Ministers are obligated to teach the Word, and most do so with a passion and proper sense of responsibility to declare its truth. I appreciate that sincerely. But as public speakers, some of you are killing me.

Some of the smartest and most eloquent preachers set my teeth on edge during every sermon. Due to my husband’s years of teaching English, our family regularly heard lessons on the correct usage of the language. I cannot recall the number of times that an observant child elbowed my husband after hearing I misused. As professional orators, you guys need to sit in my husband’s class for a day or two.

Prepositions

Here’s the rule that is easy to remember — what follows a preposition is most assuredly the word me, not I.

Jesus died for you and me. Note the word for is a preposition. Use this hint — leave out the “you and.” Would you say, “Jesus died for I”? Would you say, “Jesus died for we”? Of course not.

The world rages against you and I. No, it doesn’t. It rages against you, or me, or us, but please, not I.

There are about 60 or so common prepositions. Most are easily remembered.

Think of a bottle.

We can think of most prepositions in relation to that bottle. Is something in the bottle? Did it go toward the bottle? Is it among a group of bottles? Is it beneath or on the bottle? Then it is a preposition, and what follows it is me.

Pronouns

Think of a car. It can go past you and me. It can go beyond you and me. The car can even run over you and me.

Pronouns are rather detailed in what they are and what they do, so I will share only a few points. Pronouns are words used in place of nouns. A pronoun can replace a noun that is the subject of the verb. Ron called the church. He called the church. The pronouns used in this case would be I, he, she, it, we, you, they, who, and whoever.

I am not going to go into subject complement. Let me just say that when someone calls and asks, “May I speak to the pastor?” you say, “This is he.” Unless of course, you are not.

The next use of the pronoun is the objective case. Me, him, her, it, us, you, them, whom, or whomever are the choices of pronouns. This is not as confusing as it sounds once you get used to it.

If the pronoun is directly after an active verb, it is the objective case. Jesus loves me. Me is the direct object of the verb loves. Jesus loves you and me. Jesus loves us. But Jesus does not love you and I.

If the pronoun is the object of the preposition as discussed above, use the objective case.

During every trial and circumstance, Jesus has been there for you and me. For is the preposition, so the word has to be me. Jesus has never been there for you and I.

The indirect object usage is not so tricky either.

By dying on the cross, Jesus gave you and me eternal life. “Eternal life” is the direct object of the word gave, and “you and me” is the indirect object.

Again, remove the “you and,” and the word choice is obvious.

Well, it has been a short lesson. If you have questions, go online1 and find some practice pages. Otherwise, it is a matter of knowing what is right and then doing it.

Wait. Does that mean if you know how to not use “I” incorrectly and you do it anyway, that you are sinning?

You can contact myself or my partner next week. Ooops Another pet peeve for another day.

Frequently Used Prepositions

Note

1. www.chompchomp.com and www.englishclub.com are places to start to clean up your oratory and writing skills.

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