Q: Burning question and a grant might be riding upon it! The sentence in question goes something like this: “We live quite happily here, my gerbils, my neighbors, and I.” Or is “me” the proper pronoun in the object phrase at the end? I have argued both sides. Can you help me with this war within myself? Torn apart!
A: The noun phrase at the end of that sentence should read, “my gerbils, my neighbors, and I.”
This phrase, by the way, is not an object. On the contrary, it’s in apposition to—or the equivalent of—the subject (“we”). So the pronoun in the phrase should be in the same case (“I”).
Another way of looking at this is that the appositive noun phrase “my gerbils, my neighbors, and I” could replace the subject, “we.”
Here are examples of both subject and object pronouns used in apposition:
(1) Subject pronoun: “Three people built the house—Dad, Uncle Harry, and I.” (Here the phrase in italics is in apposition to the subject, “three people,” and could replace it.)
(2) Object pronoun: “The house was built by us—Dad, Uncle Harry, and me.” (Here the phrase is in apposition to the object, “us,” and could replace it.)
We’ve written about appositives before on our blog. An appositive is usually found right next to its equivalent, as in “Let me introduce you to my boss, Mr. Dithers.” But, as in your sentence and in No. 1 above, this isn’t always the case.
The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language gives this example of an appositive that’s separated from its “anchor,” or original noun phrase: “I met a friend of yours at the party last night—Emma Carlisle.”
The anchor is “a friend of yours” and the appositive is “Emma Carlisle.”
Check out our books about the English language