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In the singular, it is quite clear that one uses "I" when referring to a third party and oneself, as in:

Bob and I are going to build an aircraft.

However, in the plural, it is a lot less clear. For example, if a group of boy scouts are talking about their next project and want to include an outsider, e.g. Sarah:

Sarah and we are going to build an aircraft.

Or would it be:

Sarah and us are going to build an aircraft.

Or even:

Sarah and ourselves are going to build an aircraft.

Please help as otherwise I'll have to shelve the whole aircraft project.

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What about "We are going to build an aircraft with Sarah"? –  Eldroß Dec 1 '10 at 10:12
    
See here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/313/…. The "method of removing" would hold here too. –  malach Dec 1 '10 at 10:15
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@Eldros: sounds a little like Sarah is the material. –  Paul Ruane Dec 1 '10 at 10:16
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@Ralph Rickenbach: well it seems 'we' would be the correct form in that case but 'us' sounds/feels better. –  Paul Ruane Dec 1 '10 at 10:17
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@Eldros: I agree with your first and second examples - but completely disagree that "ourselves" could be used instead. I think that "Sarah and us" is the least of 3 evils, but also that this construction is best avoided altogether, and your examples are the appropriate alternatives. –  Steve Melnikoff Dec 1 '10 at 12:38
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6 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I don't think anyone would word the sentence in the examples provided. It would be either "Sarah is going to build an aircraft with us." or "We are going to build an aircraft with Sarah."

To answer your question directly, I would assume that "Sarah and we are going to build an aircraft" is correct (if you insist on using that word structure), because if Sarah wasn't there it would be "We are going to build an aircraft"

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This is an example where prescriptive grammar fails us (in practice I mean). Generations of people have had drummed into them that they must say “John and I went” not “Me and John went”, because of some supposed rule imported from Latin. (See¹ Emonds, J. “Grammatically deviant prestige dialect constructions.”A Festschift for Sol Saporta. Ed. M. Brame, H. Contreras and F. Newmeyer. Seattle: Noit Amrofer, 1985, for why “John and I went” cannot be part of any naturally learnt variety of English).

But “Sarah and we/us” is not frequent enough that phrases like it often come up in pedagogy, so we are left with two unpalatable alternatives: “Sarah and us” must be wrong because “Sarah and me” is wrong; but “Sarah and we” doesn’t sound right either, and we don’t know what to say.

Emonds discusses a number of more complicated cases where people are often unsure about the application of the rule, but I don't remember whether they include this one.

[¹ Edited to correct title of paper and provide proper citation, 3 December 2010. Text available at fine.me.uk, February 2011.]

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I would argue for "we" on the grounds that "we went" is just like "I went", plus one, Sarah. –  Remou Dec 1 '10 at 13:49
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Yes, that is one of the usual arguments. But as Pinker points out (in The Language Instinct) the category of grammatical number does not penetrate inside coordinations [i.e. "I am" does not imply "I and you am/is"], so we have no a priori reason why case should do so. –  Colin Fine Dec 1 '10 at 14:50
    
I googled "A grammatically deviant prestige construction" and all I could find was other places on the Internet where you talked about this paper. Is it available online anywhere? –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 1 '10 at 18:47
    
Possibly not. I found the reference originally in Pinker's book, and sent off for a reprint. I'll look when I'm at home and see if I can get you a proper reference. –  Colin Fine Dec 2 '10 at 12:51
    
Apologies: I had the title slightly wrong. It's "Grammatically Deviant Prestige Constructions". If you google that, you'll find plenty of references to it, and a few summaries - but not, unfortunately, the paper itself, as far as I can see. I've emailed Professor Emonds to ask if it is, or can be made, available online. –  Colin Fine Dec 3 '10 at 15:42
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If Sarah is part of the aircraft-building team, she would normally be included in we. If you mean something different, perhaps We (Sarah, the family and I) are going to...?

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As someone stated in another answer, the problem could have been imported from latin. I say what happens in other idioms, it always helps me to realized which ways to take for the logical construction of phrases.

In spanish (latin), you should not use "I" and someone, because is non polite to construct the phrase that way. You are being more important in the phrase so you place yourself first. This speak badly of you. Don't know if that's the exact reason in english but it could be. You resolve a lot of problems writing in that way.

In the case you propose, I see this (I'm not native english, so please educate me):

"Sarah and we are going to build an aircraft."

I help myself with punctuation, it gives just the pauses I need to realize what should be appropriate sometimes. So:

  • Sarah and I, we are going to build an aircraft.
  • Sarah and we, we are...
  • Sarah and us, we are...
  • Sarah and ourselves, we are...

And following the counsel,

  • I/Me and Sarah, are going to build an aircraft.
  • We and Sarah, are...
  • Us and Sarah, are...
  • Ourselves and Sarah, are...

The only phrase that doesn't sound or looks odd given the examples is WE, but I think "Sarah and we are going..." it's pretty ambiguous. If you use the comma, you'll see that using it after we, left us with "are going to build an aircraft"... in spanish could be done because the pronoun is tacit but don't know if in english you could do that so simply.

If I was you, I'd use "We and Sarah are going..." or I use the comma as in "Sarah and we, are going..."

My two cents.

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I can't think of a single example where it would be correct to separate the subject from the verb with a comma. Commas in English serve specific grammatical requirements; the fact that they sometimes mark pauses in pronunciation is secondary to their actual function. In other words, you can't put in a comma just because there's a pause there when saying it aloud. –  Marthaª Dec 1 '10 at 17:50
    
Commonly, as long as I know, is not correct to use commas for another function than the mandatory ones, but if you write a book and want to denote the mood of a conversation you will have to use them. In example: "- But, I recall being... let's say, kind of, aggressive." Is not the same as: "- But I recall being, let's say, kind of aggressive." Maybe is not correct outside a novel, but this clearly has to do with people having no style when their write because they write less than ever. Indeed I'm sure the punctuation became useful to represent time when you speak not the opposite. –  Billeeb Dec 2 '10 at 15:48
    
By the way, you are right that in english is not useful separate the subject from the verb, cause the verb alone says nothing. I clearly err in that. –  Billeeb Dec 2 '10 at 15:53
    
if I were trying to get across the conversational character of your example, I'd write it as: "But-- I recall being... let's say, kind of... aggressive." The point is, a comma does not necessarily imply a pause, not even in informal usage. –  Marthaª Dec 3 '10 at 15:56
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Try:

We and Sarah are going to build an aircraft.

Other than that, as others have suggested, avoiding the question (by putting "...with Sarah" at the end of the sentence) is probably the way to go.

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Perhaps the following could work?

Me, Bob and Sarah are going to build an aircraft.

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Not really: if there are fifteen-hundred boy scouts in the organisation then it will become a little unwieldy. An besides, by current regulation it would be 'Bob, Sarah and I' as I am a member of the subject not object. –  Paul Ruane Dec 1 '10 at 16:20
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