Magazine April 20, 2020, Issue

Perplexingly Pesky Pronouns

President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore at a rally in Monroe, Mich., August 15, 2000 (Larry Downing/Reuters)

During the Democratic debate on March 15, Senator Bernie Sanders said, “One difference between Joe and I is . . .” Nearly three decades before, then-candidate Bill Clinton said, “Please vote for Al Gore and I.” It’s also a favorite bungle of Senators Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R., Miss.). The misuse of a nominative for an objective pronoun is nothing new, and it knows no party lines: Republicans and Democrats alike make the mistake.

Americans in general seem prone to it today. A generation ago, it was one clear mark of the uneducated speaker, only a notch above

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Bryan A. Garner — Mr. Garner is the author of The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation, Garner’s Modern English Usage, and The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing.

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