I love words. I love them because through them I find truth, and in truth is joy and freedom and blessing. I love how words sound. I love how they look. I love sentences. Sentences, properly constructed and aesthetically written, change lives.
That is is one of the reasons why I’m so disheartened by the gradual disintegration of grammar in our day. I don’t know whom to blame. I suppose we should start with parents who fail to teach their children in the formative years. We should certainly put most of the blame on elementary and high school teachers who have failed to challenge and correct their students when bad grammar is used, both in speech and in writing. The internet and Twitter and endless texting are also culprits in this mess. The incessant abbreviation of words, the almost complete absence of punctuation, and the total disregard for spelling have all made it increasingly difficult for people even to recognize what is proper grammar.
Some people describe me as a grammatical Pharisee. I wear the label proudly. I don’t mean to endorse self-righteousness when it comes to grammar. I still make my fair share of mistakes and I welcome any corrections that come my way. But if we don’t take a stand and hold our grammatical ground, language and communication will continue to disintegrate, and I tremble at the thought of where that will lead.
Therefore, I’m starting a new series here at my blog. I’m calling it, “Grammatical Gripes.” At least once a week I plan on posting a brief article that addresses a particular grammatical or syntactical or spelling mistake that more and more people are making. Today, I begin with one of the worst: “I’s.”
Have you ever heard (or worse still, used) this sort of statement:
“There were some people who attended Ann and I’s seminar at the conference last week.”
“Thanks so much for spending time with us last weekend. Having you and your wife in Ann and I’s home was a genuine privilege.”
Let me say this as clearly and forcefully as I can. There is no such word as “I’s”! It doesn’t exist! The easiest way to avoid this problem is simply to use the first person plural pronoun “our” in place of “Ann” and “I” (“our seminar” and “our home”). If that doesn’t work (perhaps no one will know precisely to whom the pronoun refers), here’s the solution.
The first person possessive pronoun is “my”. Here are some examples:
“Would you like to borrow my book?” I can’t imagine anyone would say, “Would you like to borrow I’s book?”
“Please come to my house.” I doubt if you’ve ever said, “Please come to I’s house.”
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “But what do you say when you have a plural subject? It’s not just your seminar, Sam, but your wife’s as well.”
That doesn’t matter in the least. It makes no difference whatsoever and the rules of grammar don’t change simply because you have two subjects instead of just one. So, the proper way to say/write it is as follows:
“There were some people who attended Ann’s and my seminar at the conference last week.”
“Thanks so much for spending time with us last weekend. Having you and your wife in Ann’s and my home was a genuine privilege.”
In other words, you simply turn each noun or pronoun into its own possessive. [By the way, did you notice in that last phrase that the word is spelled “its”, not “it’s”? I’ll save that for another installment of Grammatical Gripes!]
I know it’s easier and to some ears sounds better to say “Ann and I’s,” but please don’t do it. It’s dumb. It’s wrong. Take a stand. Hold your grammatical ground. You and your children and all with whom you communicate will be glad you did.
(with assistance from Dean Bertsch)