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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Criminal Sentence 225: The Eyes Have It

From a book I finished last week:

"The man watched him and the girl with slow eyes."

This sentence displays another pesky prepositional phrase: "with slow eyes." Currently, it's next to "the girl," but does the girl have slow eyes? Nope, from the context of the paragraph, the man watched her slowly. So it should be:

"With slow eyes, the man watched him and the girl."


Anonymous said...

How can eyes even be slow? Weird.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he meant a sloe-eyed girl...

Anonymous said...

A grammar book I read some time ago said that when a noun and pronoun are the objects of a sentence or follow a preposition that the noun goes first. Shouldn't that be "the girl and him?"

The Sentence Sleuth said...

I wrote a Grammar Girl episode about the order of pronouns. It will probably answer your question:

Anonymous said...

Your Grammar Girl episode transcript refers to Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, page 12. The same page has an example of a noun coming before the pronoun in the object case, "The Ranger offered Shirley and him some advice on campsites." On page 11 an example is given in the nominative case, "Will Jane or he be hired, do you think?"
Two other sources that I checked concur with these examples: The Classic Guide to Better Writing by Rudolph Flesch and Grammatically Correct by Anne Steelman.
Unfortunately, I'm unable to find the original reference that specifically stated that the noun comes before the pronoun. Since your other reference was the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style, the grammar rule appears to be controversial. However, all the sources do agree that "I or me" comes last in a compound situation.