Submitted by elizabethingram on June 19, 2010

“she” vs “her”

I was speaking to my administrator and explaining how I met another person in our company. I said “her and I traveled to Kansas together”. She stopped me and said it should be “she and I traveled to Kansas together”. I feel both were appropriate, but she disagreed. Could we both be correct?

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As dyske pointed out, when you have a double subject, each part has to stand on its own - you can say "I traveled" or "She traveled," but you would never say "Her traveled" or "Me traveled." So your administrator was right.

The same goes for a double object, too - "They police interviewed her and me." You could say "interviewed her" or "interviewed me," but not "interviewed she" or "interviewed I." And when you include yourself, the convention is to put yourself last - "Bruce, Clark, Diana and I fought the ninjas," for example. I've always seen it as a politeness gambit, but I have no evidence that that is true.

I disagree with dyske, though, that "Her and I" sounds okay. It makes me feel like someone just shot needles into my brain, and it would completely derail my attention in a conversation or a story....

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No, you could NOT both be correct. The pronouns have to match in declension, so "She" goes with "I" and "her " goes with "me." When the pronouns are the Subject of the clause, then "She," "He," "We," and/or "I traveled..." But when the pronouns are the Object of action, then "The bus ran over her/him/me/us."

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Technically speaking, "Her and I traveled" is wrong. Each has to stand on its own. "Her traveled" doesn't. But what puzzles me is why "Her and I" sounds OK. In comparison, "I and she traveled" sounds awkward even though it's technically correct. Whenever the "I" is included, it's usually the last one. "You and I traveled" sounds fine, but "I and you traveled" sounds weird.

It also depends on the verb too. "Me and you are..." is wrong but sounds OK (because we hear "me and you" as a phrase often). "I and you are" is technically correct (or is it?) but sounds awkward.

As a writer, we put a lot of effort in composing sentences in such a way that they naturally flow, and so that the readers are not distracted by the technicality of them. When the sentence sounds wrong, it almost doesn't matter if it's technically correct. So, I sometimes deliberately choose the wrong one just so that the majority of the readers can stay focused on the content.

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If there are any certainties in English grammar, the fact that "her" cannot be used in the subject position of a sentence is among them. Your administrator was entirely correct. You were wrong.

If "she and I" sounds odd, that is because it would almost always be more natural to say "we" (or to use the person's name.) "Me and her" also sounds a bit odd, although, in the object position, it is not ungrammatical, because it is almost always more natural to say "us" (or "Jane and me," or whatever).

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Nigel writes:

“In most contexts, “she and I” is awkward (which is not to say “wrong”).”

How is the phrase “she and I” awkward? As a subject it is both grammatical and commonplace. The placement of the third person pronoun first is customary; this has as much to do with clarity as with etiquette. The identity of the third person must be established prior to the use of the pronoun to be understood: “This is my friend Jane. She and I traveled to Kansas together.” Placing 'she' before 'I' in the second sentence keeps the relationship between 'Jane' and 'she' close and clear. It is only incidentally polite.

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Going back to the beginning of the thread, starting a sentence with her or she, I learned in grade school to always drop the other person in the sentence as a way to remember and I've never had to think twice. I cringe when people start out with "Him and her, Him and me, etc."
Now in this case, to me, this sentence either way sounds awkward, however, the second one is correct. She is the subject at the beginning of the sentence but her is the object at the end.

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Amazing how many grammatical errors in general worked into the text of the comments I've just read.

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Purely a stylistic choice, Nigel, and a subjective one.

But you raise a valid point: some consider it rude to refer to someone in the third person in their presence, as if they weren't there. However, that is a matter of etiquette, not of grammar.

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You can't depend on what "sounds right" because so many people use the wrong pronoun case that the incorrect usage could very well "sound" better to you. When in doubt, I look up a pronoun chart like this one: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/cases.htm. Pay attention to the three cases: subjective, objective and possessive. There is no either/or in this case.

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use.."she"..if ..you talk about person..
for example...""she is beautiful"
THEN
use.."her"..if..you..talking..about..on..her...
for example.."that is "her"Boyfriend"..

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Regarding "...why on Earth would you prefer to say 'This is my friend Jane. She and I traveled to Kansas together,' rather than 'This is my friend Jane. We traveled to Kansas together'?", already asked and answered. "We" is ambiguous. Maybe you're telling Jane that you and I went to Kansas, not you and Jane. Maybe you and someone else in the room who's part of the conversation went with you. Without a context, and especially in writing, "she and I" clarifies the situation. See the examples I already posted. Referring to someone present in the third person is not rude if there are more than two people present, at least, if it's not constant and exclusionary.

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Nigel, "me and her" sounds awkward because the convention in "standard" English is to put "me" (or "I" when appropriate) at the end. You'd probably find "her and me" much less objectionable and wouldn't even notice it. As far as I know, every schoolchild in every English speaking country and every ESL student in every other country is still taught that "me and her", "me and you", etc., is both ungrammatical and actually rude in its lack of deference. The descriptive vs. prescriptive debate in other threads on this site has already been beaten this subject to death, but suffice it to say, while "me and her" is becoming less uncommon, it's not considered standard English.

In many but not all cases, "we" and "us" make reasonable substitutes, but you must consider that they are often ambiguous. Does "us" mean her and me? him and me? you and me? you, John, Mary and me, but not Ed and Alice? Let me illustrate by putting the sentence in question into a possible context. Let's say you and I are sitting together along with a few others, and my friend, Jane walks over:

"Everyone, this is my friend, Jane. She and I traveled to Kansas together. We had a great time!"

Note the transition from "Jane" to "she and I" to "we". Perhaps you or someone else in the group might have gone to Kansas with me then or at a previous time as well. Not everyone in the group would have knowledge of everyone else's travel history. n my example, "she" can only mean Jane. Later, "we" can only mean Jane and I. The specificity of "she and I" would be wholly appropriate and stylistically preferred.

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"I was speaking to my administrator and explaining how I met another person in our company. I said “her and I traveled to Kansas together”. She stopped me and said it should be “she and I traveled to Kansas together”. I feel both were appropriate, but she disagreed. Could we both be correct?"

You are actually both right but only she is "correct".

Your administrator has an advantage over you here: she has the full force of "formal" English usage on her side. On your side, you only have colloquial English.

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It would be colloquial if it were very commonly said, but I cannot recall ever having heard someone saying "Her and I," and I would find it jarring if they did (much more so, in fact, than something like "Me and her" in the subject position, which <i>is</i> fairly common, and thus, arguably, colloquially correct). No doubt it is sometimes said, but it is rare, and thereby it is just as much an error in colloquial as in formal English.

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Looking again at the original question, I've noticed that, apart from the fact that strict grammarians wouldn't allow "her" as the subject, there is an inconsistency here, in that "her" is objective and "I" subjective.

In neutral to formal English, we would indeed say "She and I travelled to Kansas together", but in Britain, at least, in informal conversation it's becoming quite common to use objective pronouns when there is a compound subject as in this example (but never with a single subject) - and in this case the "stand alone" rule doesn't apply. But when this happens, in the majority of cases "me" comes first, so "Me and her travelled to Kansas together" is probably more idiomatic than "Her and me travelled ...". But I stress, this only happens in informal, conversational English.

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Porsche: I did not say, and did not knowingly imply, that "she and I" is incorrect, and I agree that there are some contexts where it is preferable to "we." I said, after all, that it is '<i>almost always be more natural to say “we”.' Such contexts are rather rare, however, and I see nothing in the description of the original post's example to suggest that it is one of them. In most contexts, "she and I" is awkward (which is not to say "wrong").

As for "me and her" versus "her and me," I see very little to choose between them. Both sound a little bit awkward, but I have a hard time seeing either as ungrammatical (in the object position), although perhaps it is true that the latter is, marginally, more polite (although I cannot imagine anyone actually being offended by the former). I do believe I was taught that it is polite to say "Jane and I" rather than "I and Jane," and the latter does sound a bit awkward to me, but again, I have trouble seeing this as a matter of grammar rather than courtesy or good taste, and, in reality, I would not be in the least offended by someone who said "I and Nigel . . .."

By contrast, "Her and I" is a clear grammatical error.

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Darn, I forgot to close the italics tag after "almost." :(

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She continued to have weekend visits, as desired by she and her father.
She continued to have weekend visits, as desired by her and her father.

Which is the correct sentence? My instinct tells me it is the second (I was presented with the first), but I would appreciate feedback on this.

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I guess awkwardness is a subjective matter, but why on Earth would you prefer to say “This is my friend Jane. She and I traveled to Kansas together,” rather than “This is my friend Jane. We traveled to Kansas together”?

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Bay....If you look back on the thread, Scyllacat has given a concise and coherent solution to your enquiry. Never forget Mr Wilde's quote. "Oscar Wilde would never refer to himself in the third person"

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I discovered this site while trying to clarify a doubt I had which wasn't answered here. Maybe someone can help me. In a conversation: Hey Lucas, who's she? (Lucas says: Who? She? Ah, she is Laura.) Isn't the "She" in "Who? She?" wrong? It sounds really off to me. I think it's like saying: Who are you talking about, her??? [Object pronoun] (That girl over there???) So you would refer to her as HER and not SHE. Is that right or am I missing something here?

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@Linda - I totally agree with you that 'she' sounds off in that context, and I would say 'her' myself, as I'm sure most people would. But I've no doubt there is the odd pedant who will tell you it is an ellipsis (shorter form) of 'Who is she', and should therefore be 'she'.

The same people who tell us that in reply to the question 'Who did that?' 'I' is correct and 'me' is incorrect, which for most of us is utter nonsense.

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I don't remember learning this in school. Except for the part that in formal language you should use I at the end of the list of people you're talking about, because if you say 'I, Tom, Tim, and John went..' it sounds more selfish or something like that. You should say, 'Tom, Tim, John, and I'. I remember the teacher saying, 'And, if you have to use the word me, then at least say tom, Tim, John, and me'. Haha. But I think both she and I and she and me works. Although my elementary school teacher told us you shouldn't use me in the beginning of the sentence, because that's not the "better" way, it doesn't mean it cannot be used nor that it is not grammatically correct. So I would sometimes say 'Me, Tom, Tim, and John', if I'm not feeling too self-conscious about myself.

I feel that people who use 'she and I' are people who just like to speak like they learned, and/or want to stay professional, and/or want to speak "formally'', etc.. If it's come to the point that she's correcting you, Elizabeth, then it's more likely that she is insecure in the style of speech that she uses, herself. She subconsciously recognises that she does not like using 'she and I', and because she had previously been forced to change her style, she also wants you to speak in that way. But don't worry, that's one of those up-for-philsophical/psychological debate topics.

Now, maybe people are confusing 'her' with the possessive 'her'. Remember, there are two meanings. For masculine, there is 'him' and 'his'. But for feminine, there is only 'her', which can mean either.

Using 'him', 'me and him' does make sense. Then, 'me and her' also make sense.
'I and her' does not make sense because 'I' is a special word, more than you'd admit, as it's only used alone, or at the end of the list. 'he and I' or 'she and I' does sound a little weird, but 'he' and 'she' are both starting words like 'I' is. Switching it around, 'me and her' and 'me and him' are still correct. Using 'her' is the common as well as the right way to use it. Remember I said 'I' is a special word. Well, 'I' doesn't like to be with other subject pronouns unless it's at the end of the list. 'I and she' or 'I and he' would not grammatical sense. It's because 'I' is like this narcissistic word. Once 'I' is in there, any subsequent referrals to 'he' or 'she' is changed to 'him' or 'her'. Given this, 'him and I' or 'her and I' should be perfectly corrrect.

The other issue is that 'she' and 'he' sounds more formal. Her brain is subconsciously mad at you, because you're using the more "informal" word 'her' with the "formal" syntax of using 'I' or 'me' at the end of the list, although 'I' should always be at the end of the list.

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Make that:
"...This subject has already been beaten to death in the descriptive vs. prescriptive debate in other threads on this site..."
(Darn that cut and paste.)

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Why on Earth does it matter? The subject pronouns have been bouncing around for god knows how long... Just go on wikipedia, look up Middle English pronouns, then Old English pronouns...

Mr. Tonguedefender: "Hey is for horses"
Me: "And it also means hello"

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