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From the lyrics to Another Brick in the Wall:

What is the grammatical construct in leave us kids alone or leave them kids alone?

Teachers leave them kids alone.
Hey teacher leave us kids alone

Is it short for leave them, the kids, alone and leave us, the kids, alone, respectively? I have seen the construct with them [noun] in other contexts, too, but can't find examples as it's hard to google.

Is this proper English? Are there phrases with a similar grammatical construct?

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The leave them kids alone part is definitely ungrammatical, as is the first chorus line We Don't Need No Education (the former should be those kids, and the latter uses the much-reviled double negative).

Per this answer on a related ELU question, using "them" as an "article" is non-standard (but not uncommon in speech, particularly with the less well-educated, or in "facetious" usages).

There's nothing ungrammatical about leave us kids alone - if there were, you wouldn't expect to see written references to things that might help us writers, for example.

In such constructions, the [optional] "class/category name" after "us" applies to all of us - it doesn't select kids or writers from a larger group. The context inherently implies that "we" are all kids, writers, whatever.

  • Interesting that there is a difference, grammatically speaking, between us kids and them kids. – gerrit Feb 19 '13 at 23:15
  • @gerrit: I was thinking about mentioning that in the answer itself. Although there is a grammatical difference (us kids is "proper English" and them kids isn't), the way they're juxtaposed in the song lyrics (and the fact that the title itself is non-standard) give us the general sense that us kids might not be quite "kosher" either. But I decided that was a bit peripheral, so I contented myself with just showing via a Google Books link that even published writers have no problem writing of us writers. – FumbleFingers Feb 19 '13 at 23:21
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    @gerrit: As a general rule, us kids would include the speaker, and them kids would not. For example, Todd said to the bully, "Leave them kids alone." means that Todd told the bully to stop what he was doing. In that context, Todd might even be an adult. If Todd says "Leave us kids alone," then I would presume Todd was numbered among the victims. – J.R. Feb 20 '13 at 2:04
  • @J.R.: No question. The speaker must be one of "us" in such constructions. But in a heated public political debate, say, I suppose someone could say "There's nothing wrong with us coloured lesbian teenage mothers, you know!". Without necessarily implying too much about how many others there might be in "our gang"! :) – FumbleFingers Feb 20 '13 at 2:13
  • 'tis the first two lines containing the double negative(s), not the title. Another Brick in the Wall (pt II) has no negatives at all – mcalex Feb 22 '13 at 11:27
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There are two voices in the song.

One is the narrator ('Pink') who is commenting on the education system. He is the one responsible for 'Leave them kids alone'.

The other 'voice' belongs to the children in the system. Their lyric is 'leave us kids alone'.

The 'us' in the second part makes sense when you consider that there is a whole choir of students singing that part, and the references in the film clip indicate that the entire school (multiple classrooms, at least) are all of one voice in the matter.

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