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Sentence:

John's entire plan was nothing more than him/he and me/I walking by his neighbors' houses armed with twenty-eight inches of potentially bone-crushing sports equipment.

Should I use "he and I" or "him and me" in this sentence? I am actually an English teacher, but this sentence is giving me fits!

  • Thank you for your response. The truth is, even with the inclusion of the preposition "for," I still have a difficult time figuring this out. Reasoning, I do feel the objective pronouns are right; however, I cannot stop thinking of other grammar dynamics that make me believe the subjective pronouns are appropriate. – Lark Johnson Feb 4 '16 at 15:04
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    It's a disguised ACC-ing (-like) construction. I like him having such a positive attitude / It consists in [more than] him [just] identifying pathogens / The entire plan was [nothing more than] him and me walking.... The use of a link-verb construction muddies the waters somewhat, but the objective case is still used (as with 'It's us'); it's clunky – Mark's earlier rewrites sounded far better. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 4 '16 at 16:43
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    Wow. Correct answers from Ashworth, Lawler, and BillJ, and no incorrect answers (yet). – Greg Lee Feb 4 '16 at 19:04
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There's a simple reason why subject pronouns like him and me should be objective here.

There are, as noted, any number of different ways to report the same proposition.
But there is a very limited number of possible complement clause types in English.

There are only four of these types of clause [bracketed below]:

  • two finite clause types, requiring a nominative subject and a verb in past or present tense.

    1. that clauses : I think [(that) he has left].
    2. wh- clauses : I know [what he wants].
  • two non-finite clause types, each requiring a non-nominative subject and a non-tensed verb.

    1. infinitive clauses : I wanted [(for) him to leave]
    2. gerund clauses : She deplored [him/his leaving so soon]

Non-finite complement clauses often lack a subject, if it's indefinite, like the subject of leaving in

  • [Leaving immediately] could be misinterpreted.

or if it's predictable by some syntactic rule, like the way we identify the subjects of leave and want

  • She wants [to leave soon].

When a non-finite subject is omitted, it leaves only a verb phrase, like those bracketed above.
These are sometimes called "participles" or "participial phrases", but they're really just clauses that have lost their subject somehow, because the subject can always be determined.

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Nominative would be wrong. The pronouns in him and me walking by his neighbours houses ... are the subject of the clause, but the clause is non-finite. Non-finite clauses have accusative subjects, as in for us to walk by his neighbours' houses.

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Neither.

Because "walking" seems to be a gerund in this example, I might suggest the possessive case.

She abhorred his snoring.

He continued his gargling.

We objected to their fishing in our pond.

These all seem to sound right, and use neither nominative nor objective cases. The same should hold true for the example:

John's entire plan was nothing more than his and my walking by his neighbors' houses armed with twenty-eight inches of potentially bone-crushing sports equipment.

Evidently they were bent on imitating (American) football players.

  • Genitive case is possible with gerund-participials, though it is somewhat formal, not to mention clunky with coordinated pronoun subjects as your example demonstrates. – BillJ Feb 4 '16 at 21:15
  • @BillJ- Agreed on all counts, but to me it's the way to render the OP's example - not mine - grammatically viable. If I needed to express the same idea, I'd frame the sentence differently, perhaps saying that the plan was for him and me... or some such. – Rob_Ster Feb 4 '16 at 21:41

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