Listening to my grammar brain

Speaking of who/whom, here’s a pronoun case chart from cengage.

I assume it’s from the textbook Evergreen: A Guide to Writing by Susan Fawcett.

Personal narrative: I saw a pronoun case chart for the first time in my life when I started teaching freshman composition. Up to that moment, I had no idea what the grammatical distinction was between who and whom; I certainly had no clue what the word “case” might mean, or what part of grammar it applied to.

The chart was a revelation.

Very satisfying!

Interestingly, I discovered that in fact I did know the distinction unconsciously, deep down in my basal ganglia, where grammar resides. I had picked it up in spite of the fact that whom has been dead for a century.

My basal ganglia knew the dead-for-a-century business, too.

Grammar brain knows.

The basal ganglia are much smarter than we give them credit for, but that is a subject for another day.

2 thoughts on “Listening to my grammar brain

  1. I don’t know if I was ever explicitly taught pronoun cases in school until first year German. I think a lot of students learn this for the first time when they hit foreign language classes in high school.

    Our kids’ junior high actually had a nice idea for 6th grade language: it was a first trimester class called “Language Foundations”. The class was the last pass at grammar, if not the first for a lot of the kids. They spent a couple of months learning English grammar, including things that are necessary for foreign languages like pronoun cases–it was also taught by one of the best and most serious teachers at the school, which certainly helped. Second trimester they took either Latin or Spanish, then flipped those classes for the final trimester. The following year, the kids would commit to either Latin or Spanish for 7th and 8th.

    I would have preferred it to be a year-long class and forgo the once-over-lightly single trimesters of Latin and Spanish, but at least they got a couple of months of it.


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