Q: A writer recently inscribed a book to me this way: “Here’s to words & we who love them.” Shouldn’t it be “& us who love them”? (Yes, awkward, but wouldn’t “& those of us who love them” work too?)
A: Yes, that inscription should have read, “Here’s to words & us who love them.”
This sentence is made up of two clauses (a clause is a group of words with its own subject and verb).
The main clause is “Here’s to words & us” and the subordinate or dependent clause is “who love them.”
The case of the pronoun in question (whether it’s a subject, “we,” or an object, “us”) depends on its role in the main clause. In this sentence, it’s an object.
To make it easier to see what’s going on here, we’ll add a missing but implied word to the main clause: “Here’s to words and [to] us.”
One would never write “Here’s to words and [to] we,” but the addition of the subordinate clause apparently confused the writer.
In the subordinate clause (“who love them”), the pronoun “who” is the subject of the verb “love.”
You’re right about “those of us.” When in doubt about whether the pronoun is a subject or an object, “those of us” is handy because it can fill either role.
The reason is that the principal term in the phrase, “those,” can be either a subject or an object.
So both of these are proper sentences:
“[We/Those of us] who are about to die salute you.” (Both “we” and “those of us” are subjects.)
“Your blessing honors [us/those of us] who are about to die.” (Both “us” and “those of us” are objects.)
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