Case 5: The Times confuses subject and object

15th December 2001

Filed by: Officer Taylor

The Offence

Today, we have one of the classic foul-ups, perpetrated by perhaps the world's most widely respected newspaper. Saturday's edition carried several reports on the trial of two men, Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, who were found not guilty of GBH. The report Woodgate is a beaten man after long trial commented:

Woodgate looked stunned. For he and Bowyer, the world was suddenly at their feet again.

Oh dear.

The Verdict

This is a classic case of confusing subject and object. The third person is ``he'' when it's the subject of a clause, but ``him'' when it's the object - as in ``The postman knocked on Jim's door. He gave the parcel to him.'' We wouldn't write ``Him gave the parcel to he''. At least, not if we're more than six years old.

In the second of the two sentences cited above from the Times article, ``he and Bowyer'' are the joint objects of the prepositon ``for''. Objects must be in the objective case, so it has to be ``for him and Bowyer''.

We can easily see this by turning the sentence around into the form ``The world was suddenly at the feet of Woodgate and Bowyer''. Would the Times have written ``... at the feet of he and Bowyer'' in that sentence? Let's at least hope not.

For an even more graphic illustration of why the Times writer is wrong wrong wrong, imagine how the sentence would have been written had Bowyer not been involved at all:

Woodgate looked stunned. For he, the world was suddenly at his feet again.

This would be funny if it were not so tragic.

Oh, what the heck, it is funny. Why deny it?

So the verdict is as follows: we find the Times emphatically guilty of inexplicably fouling up a perfectly simple subject-object sentence.

The Sentence

(Har har! ``The Sentence''! Get it?)

Death is too good for the writer responsible for this. Also for the copy-editor who let it slip through the net. We sentence both of them to have their intestines scooped out with a teaspoon.



*** Bonus Offence ***

The very same article also makes this point:

Many of the Leeds players - Bowyer among them - live in a beautiful, affluent suburb of Wetherby, close to the training ground, in a cul-de-sac of ugly modern houses.

Well? What is it? Beautiful or ugly?


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