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I read an English grammar article—for English mother tongue—in which the author talked about the correct use of pronouns.

He writes:

If the extended sentence is “She’s more likely to ask him than I am,” in which the comparison is between the subject and the writer, I is correct. However, if the intent is to convey that the man referred to as him is more likely to be asked something by the subject than the writer is, the correct pronoun form is me, but that distinction should be clarified with a revision like “She’s more likely to ask him than ask me.”

Before reading this piece, I thought that the two sentences had the same meaning. While the second example is quite clear for me (“She’s more likely to ask him than ask me”), I don't think that I have correctly understood the first one. Could anyone explain it to me, please?

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    It means that it is more likely that she will ask him than that I will ask him. – StoneyB Oct 7 '13 at 16:09
  • Relevant – Mistu4u Oct 7 '13 at 16:16
  • Thank you for the link, Mistu. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it says that "both constructions are acceptable in English language". I don't know whether the mentioned article above says the same thing. – jeysmith Oct 7 '13 at 16:30
  • I mean, the same thing in this case, at least. – jeysmith Oct 7 '13 at 16:40
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This is a good example of why these sorts of pronoun choices are tricky.

It is also a good demonstration of why they are important, because in this case both constructions are grammatical and each refers to a different, but equally valid scenario.


Let's look at the first:

She’s more likely to ask him than I (am).

In order to focus on the choice at hand without the confusing presence of other pronouns, let's say:

Gia’s more likely to ask Jim than I.

This means it's more likely that Gia will ask Jim something than it is that I will ask Jim something. Both Gia and I can be thought of as subjects in this case (we're doing all the asking).


Then we have the second case:

She’s more likely to ask him than (ask) me.

Or:

Gia’s more likely to ask Jim than me.

This (as you know) means that, given the choice between Jim and myself, Gia is more likely to ask Jim something than she is to ask me something.


The key distinction between the two is that choosing “I” as the self-reference in the sentence groups the speaker with the people taking the action of asking, and choosing “me” groups the speaker with the people who are hypothetical targets of a question.

Implicit in the author’s note that the “distinction should be clarified with a revision” is the fact that this is something that many native speakers mess up all the time, choosing between subject/object pronouns in a casual way and relying on context to convey their meaning.


On a personal note, this is an aspect of English that my non-native-speaking friends and relatives have caught me doing wrong and corrected me on. Chances are, if you learn this well, you will outperform the average native speaker in selecting the appropriate pronoun.

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    Further reading: arnoldzwicky.org/2012/01/23/dinosaur-grammar – snailboat Oct 7 '13 at 17:48
  • Thank you Tyler. I think I've understood it now. However, let me write down a couple of sentences which will make sure that I finally got all this matter straight, even if these sentences might sound ungrammatical and awkward to you. Without considering the "possibilities" (likely), just in order to focus on WHO we are talking about, for the first sentence "Gia’s more likely to ask Jim than I" could I re-write it as: "Probably, Gia will ask Jim, because I won't ask that to Jim". The second one could be "Probably, Gia will ask that to Jim, because she doesn't want to talk to me today" – jeysmith Oct 7 '13 at 19:45
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    @jeysmith: You've got it! If you didn't already, notice how your rephrasings have made use of the same choice of pronoun in each case. That can be useful! Something I do when I'm not sure is rephrase a sentence a little in my head (keeping all parties in the same relation to the action and to one another) and see if it still makes sense with the pronoun I've chosen. – Tyler James Young Oct 7 '13 at 19:57
  • Great! Thank you again Tyler! I agree with you. I have always believed that rephrasing a sentence is a helpful way to make sure to get the right meaning of it. You can get more 'feedbacks' from a mother tongue this way. – jeysmith Oct 7 '13 at 20:10
  • This answer does an excellent job of presenting one side of a very long-running debate. For both sides, see this answer. – Ben Kovitz Dec 28 '14 at 21:44

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