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As I understand it, the following is a principle (or "rule" if you wish) of English grammar:

Finite verbs take subject pronouns: I sing.

Non-finite verbs take object/possessive pronouns: That's me singing; She doesn't mind my singing.

Question 1. How do linguists account for the presence of a subject pronoun with a non-finite verb (i.e. That's how they found us; I staring out the window, Anne sitting by the computer)? Is "I" considered "non-standard" usage? Is it an "exception" to the rule described above? Or is the principle I mentioned inaccurate and therefore needs to be revised or discarded in favor of a more rigorous principle?

The principle above seems to work on contrast; that is, the form of the pronoun depends on the type of verb involved (finite or non-finite). That contrast doesn't apply to prepositions (as far as I can tell). In other words, it's not that some prepositions take subject pronoun, while others take object pronouns.

Question 2. what's the governing principle for the use of object pronouns in That's ok by me; Give it to him; It's up to her; etc.? I've seen some people talk about "Case" (i.e. prepositions assign object/accusative case), but doesn't "Case" imply/require inflection, and that doesn't really apply to English?

I suppose all of these can be explained by simply saying "that's how it is in English." I just wonder if linguists see an underlying principle at work for the above questions.

Thanks in advance

  • You have mixed up sentence fragments or dangling phrases and full sentences. That's me. is a full sentence. Anne sitting by the computer = is a fragment. That's me, has a subject and a verb: that and the verb is. – Lambie Jun 6 '18 at 16:33
  • "Case" is very complicated, so simple generalizations like "the subject pronouns are used for the subjects of finite verbs, and never elsewhere in English" often don't describe all of the actual patterns of usage. It's unclear whether the complicated patterns of actual usage should be described as being part of the main grammar system of English, or something else, though (some people give explanations involving "hypercorrection" or "grammatical viruses"). – sumelic Jun 6 '18 at 16:33
  • A book about "case" in English that I plan on reading some day is "The Distribution of Pronoun Case Forms in English", by Heidi Quinn (2005). And it seems that many other papers and books have been written about the topic of case. Whole books wouldn't have to be written about case/Case if it were easy to describe what it is and how it works. – sumelic Jun 6 '18 at 16:33
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    Non-finite clauses take objective/genitive case pronoun subjects, while finite clauses take nominative case pronouns. Note though that when a gerund-participial clause is in adjunct function, it can take either nominative or accusative subjects (but not genitive): "She sought advice from Ed, he/him being the most experienced of her colleagues". Personal pronouns are inflected for nominative and accusative case instead of plain case. Prepositions take accusative case pronouns as complement. – BillJ Jun 6 '18 at 16:38
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    I would recommend "That's how they found us: I was staring out the window; Anne was sitting by the computer." (Note the colon after "us".) However, the following might also suffice: "That's how they found us: me staring out the window, Anne sitting by the computer." (You might want to have "...me, staring..." and "...Anne, sitting...".) In this scond case, since "us" is the direct object of "found" and so in the objective case, and the persons found ("me" and "Anne") are also direct objects of "found", they should be in the objective case too. – tautophile Jun 6 '18 at 16:52

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