word order (was Re: Random DWJ discovery of the day)

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Tue Apr 5 19:52:39 EDT 2005

Belben, Philip (Energy Wholesale) wrote:

I think the problem is that there is a rule about case that you don't 
clearly understand. It's not always clear in English when someone is 
using an object or subject case because English nouns no longer have 
declensions. In languages like German, I think native speakers are 
probably clearer on these differences, because they have to be. However, 
in English, pronouns do still change according to case (that is, whether 
they are talking about the subject or the object).

> Well, they are both expressions that I use naturally, being part of the
>language I absorbed as a child.  Does that mean that my native language
>isn't English?  (Thinking about it, I would say "It is I" or "It's me",
>but I wouldn't mix and match.)
Correctness here depends on the context of the question to which this 
would be an answer. It doesn't have anything to do with the contraction. 
Sentence 1 is an answer to the question "Who is there"; while sentence 2 
is an answer to "I wonder whom Jim is taking to the dance".

>What, though, do you mean by "an artificial language invented by
>people"?  If English wasn't invented by people, who was it invented by?
>Or whom was it invented by? [*]  The distinction between an artificial
>and a natural language is easier to grasp, but I would argue that it is
>seldom if ever clear cut in the real world.
>[*]  I accept that "by whom was it invented?" is also grammatically
>correct, and could be regarded as the basic form of that sentence.  But
>when I move "whom" to the head for emphasis, "by" floats to its other
>natural position, directly after the verb.  I maintain - as, I believe,
>do most descriptive grammarians - that it is entirely irrelevant whether
>this is also the end of a sentence!  As regards "who" or "whom" at the
>front of the sentence, "who" appears (to me) to be the natural form
>because when we utter it, it doesn't yet know that it is governed by
>"by".  But if I thought before speaking I'd probably say "whom".
Whom is correct in both examples, because the object case is required. 
It isn't about word order. You think it is about word order because 
usually the subject comes at the beginning of the sentence, but word 
order is not the reason the pronoun needs to be in the object form..


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