My dearest pups,
Happy Women’s Equality Day! On August 26, 1920, American
women achieved the right to vote (i.e. suffrage). Later in this class, we will be reading some speeches by Suffragettes (i.e. those who fought for the women’s right to vote). This weekend, we will read an AMAZING letter Abigail Adams wrote her husband, President John Adams, a few months into the Revolutionary War. In it, she argues the Founders should “remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than [their] ancestors” when designing the
new nation. To fight a war for the right to vote and yet deny that right to their wives, Adams claims, would be hypocritical of the Founders. Yet, that’s precisely what happened for 144 years! (Adams predicts as much because, as she says, men are “naturally tyrannical”.) It’s crazy to think that democracy—the system of one vote per citizen—is under a century old in this country (2014-1920 < 100).
With undying affection for you & a humble deference to the women of history,
Tonight’s homework is light. Just read this clarification of what we covered at the end of class. If something suddenly makes sense, write it down in your notebook.
A subject is a noun that does a verb. A direct object is a noun that the verb is being done to. You can find the direct object by asking of the verb “what?” or “whom?” For example:
e.g. Our cat caught a mouse.
What is being caught? The mouse. Therefore the mouse is the direct object. The cat is doing the catching; the mouse is being caught.
e.g. Mr. S chucked Mr. Carrawell.
Whom did I chuck? Mr. Carrawell. Therefore he is the direct object. Mr. S is doing the chucking; Mr. Carrawell is being chucked.
Pronouns replace nouns, but their case depends on whether the noun they are replacing is a subject, object, or possessive. If the noun is a subject, replace it with a subjective pronoun (e.g. I, she, we, who). If it’s a direct object, replace it with an objective pronoun (e.g. me, her, him, whom). If it’s showing a possessive (e.g. Mr. Schiffres’s classroom), replace it with a possessive pronoun (e.g. my, yours, his, hers, theirs).
Here are some of the examples that stumped us in class:
- “Whom does the ball belong to?”
First, identify the verb. Belong. Now identify the noun that is doing the belonging. This is tricky—it’s the ball. The ball belongs to… Whatever the verb “to belong” means, it is the ball that is doing the belonging. Now ask the question: what / whom is the belonging happening to? The belonging is happening to the person that is replaced by the pronoun whom. Since the belonging is happening to that person, the person is a direct object. Thus he is replaced by an objective pronoun: whom. Rephrasing the sentence, you could also write: The ball belongs to him. “Him” is another example of an objective pronoun. You would never say: The ball belongs to he. Again, the man in question is not doing the belonging.
2. “Who, may I ask, are you?”
Suppose this came up on a practice test. The first step is to figure out the verb that is connected to “who”. See how the “may I ask” is surrounded by commas. We learned that means it is non-essential information. The sentence can stand just as well without it. So we can take it out and rewrite the sentence as “Who are you?” The verb connected to “who” is “are”. As we learned, “are” is a conjugation of the verb “to be” (i.e. I am, you are, we are, he is, etc.) The pronoun “who” is replacing a noun that is doing the verb of being. Think about other instances of the verb “to be”. You would always say: “I am”, never “me am” (remember: “me” is an objective pronoun). “I” is a subjective pronoun, just like “who”. That is because the person in question is always doing the verb. So just like you say “I am Mr. S”, one would say “Who are you?” If you wanted to interject some non-essential words in there, you could say: “Who, may I ask, are you?”
3. “He is taller than I.”
This is tricky. “He is taller than I” really means: “He is taller than I [am].” We just cut that last verb out for concision (i.e. to make it shorter). Just like in the previous example, anytime a person is doing the verb “to be” (e.g. I am, he is, you are, he was, they were), that person is a subject. Subjects do the verbs. So once you there is an implicit verb at the end, you know it has to be a subjective pronoun (“I”) and not an objective pronoun (“me”). In the same way, you would say “He is taller than she [is]”; you would not say “He is taller than her”.
For any lingering questions, please go to the Materials page. I have links to more information on Pronouns, Direct & indirect objects, and Who vs. whom. I even have Who vs. whom explained in a comic
A note for those who struggled: This stuff is hard. But once you understand, it will make reading, writing, & living so much easier. I am never impressed by someone quickly understanding. What impresses me is when someone hits a roadblock and, rather than throwing up their hands in frustration, redoubles their effort. Never say die (i.e. never quit), and always fail better!
We worked through the third compendium on the Materials page from the beginning until the Pronouns > Gender section.