7
  1. You, not them, are responsible for that.
  2. You, not they, are responsible for that.

Which one is correct? And why?

  • First option.... because "them" is a personal pronouns and we use it as the object of the verb in a sentence. – Roh Aug 17 '14 at 14:49
  • 2
    @Roh But in the sentence you are referring to, them is not an object, that's probably why OP is asking the question! – Laure Aug 17 '14 at 15:00
  • @Roh I think the correct option is not they – Man_From_India Aug 17 '14 at 15:23
  • 3
    The way to solve it is to see if you can make the sentence using "they" or "them" in a more obvious position. "Them are not responsible, not you" = horrible. "They are responsible, not you". = :) – JMB Aug 17 '14 at 15:34
  • @JMB Actually he meant exactly the opposite :D – JuliandotNut Aug 17 '14 at 20:04
6
  1. You, not them, are responsible for that.

  2. You, not they, are responsible for that.

Which one is correct? And why?

I'm thinking that both versions are probably acceptable.

But to show why, I'll first have to explore some related issues:

  • Point One: The subject could be interpreted to be a coordination, but the verb agrees only with the first coordinate.

  • Point Two: The second coordinate seems to be functioning more like supplementary information. This can be seen due to the pair of commas that delimit it as though it was a parenthetical expression, and due to the verb agreeing with only the first coordinate (it is as if the verb is treating the second coordinate as though it doesn't exist--i.e. as though the second coordinate was a parenthetical).

Notice that your example is similar in structure and meaning to:

  • 3) You, and not them, are responsible for that.

  • 4) You, and not they, are responsible for that.

The difference is that the coordinator "and" is explicit in these last two versions. Looking at versions #3 and #4, it seems to me that version #3 (with the accusative "them") is fully acceptable. As to version #4, it seems that it is also probably acceptable too, though perhaps it might seem to sound more formal.

Here's related info to show that the verb agrees only with the first coordinate, that the 2nd coordinate is ignored for subject/verb agreement. In the 2002 CGEL page 510:

(e) Coordination with and not or but not

Coordinations with and not and but not follow a simple rule. Since only the first co-ordinate has the property ascribed to it by the predicate, it is the first coordinate that determines the form of the verb:

[39]

  • i. a. Ed, and not the twins, [ is / *are ] here.

  • i. b. The twins, and not Ed, [ are / *is ] here.

(Usually, the default case for personal pronouns could be considered to be the accusative case.) In the 2002 CGEL page 461:

[14]

  • i. a. Gary took the call, not I. - - - b. Gary took the call, not me.

  • ii. a. A: Who ordered a taxi? B: (?) I. - - - b. A: Who ordered a taxi? B: Me.

  • iii. a. A: I'm going home. B: (*) I too. - - - b. A: I'm going home. B: Me too.

Few people would use a nominative in [i], fewer still in [ii], where it would sound excessively pedantic (even more so, probably, with a negative: ?Not I ), and in [iii] it can be regarded as completely unacceptable. If the accusative is felt to be too informal for the context, the construction can easily be avoided altogether: I didn't take the call, Gary did; I did; So am I.

Notice how their example [14.i] "Gary took the call, not I/me" is somewhat similar to your two original examples, the difference being that the second coordinate has been moved to the end of the sentence.

NOTE: The 2002 CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL).

2

Sentence 2: you, not they, are responsible for that is correct. Here one should use the subject form of personal pronoun.

Here are some examples from google books.

  1. Write about you, not them.
  2. Unforgiveness only hurts you, not them.
  3. you, not they, own allcontent at the end
  4. Not me, not you, not they were guilty.
  5. you, not they, must change from an “employed” to a “self-employed” attitude.
  • 4
    Isn't there a contradiction in your own examples? "Not me, not you, not they were guilty." – F.E. Aug 17 '14 at 21:38
  • That is how the author of the book wrote it, I guess it is used for pronoun I sometimes like that. For 3rd person Subject, theyis used in all examples. – JuliandotNut Aug 18 '14 at 18:29
2

"THEY" is correct. Here's why: "You" is in the 2nd person, therefore, use "THEY", which is also in the second person. "Them" is third person.

Here's a tip for resolving these kind of questions:

Remove one person from the sentence, leaving only the person in question, and see what works then. For example:

"Johny and I went to the store."

"Johny and me went to the store."

Which is correct? Take Johny out of the sentence because our question is about ME (or I).

"I went to the store."

"Me went to the store."

Which is correct? Obviously, "I went to the store." is correct. Now that we know the correct form, let's bring Johny back into the sentence:

"Johny and I went to the store."

That was pretty obvious, but it illustrates the idea. Now let's try that trick with a case that is less obvious, the original question:

"You, not them, are responsible for that."

"You, not they, are responsible for that."

We know that "you" is correct, so let's throw you out!

"Them are responsible for that."

"They are responsible for that."

Now, it's clear, isn't it? "They" is the correct form.

For some reason, when we run into a sentence with two parties in it, we get confused about the correct forms. Just remember to reduce the sentence to just the party in question, and in almost all cases, the correct usage will be clear.

The correct usage does NOT change simply because we add another party to the sentence.

In some cases, this will have you using "me", and because of bad teaching ("Never say me!"), many get tripped up by this. "Me" is perfectly legitimate, and is often the correct form.

  • 2
    "THEY" is correct. Here's why: "You" is in the 2nd person, therefore, use "THEY", which is also in the second person. "Them" is third person. <== But isn't "THEY" in the 3rd person? – F.E. Aug 17 '14 at 21:40
  • I don't think that your coordinate reduction method is applicable here. For consider: "He, not she/her, is responsible for that". – F.E. Aug 18 '14 at 0:51
  • them and they are both third person. They is third person subject. Them is third person object. – Laure Aug 18 '14 at 6:58

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