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The Write Way

19 October 2001

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The Three Bears


Let's have a little look at this fairy tale ...

"Whose been sleeping in my bed?" asked Baby Bear, peeping around from behind Mumma Bear, who's job it was to answer the same inane question every morning.

"Don't be such a baby, Baby," said Big Sister Bear. "The little bear whom lives here has been sleeping in it .... duh!"

"But, but ..." Baby stammered, "the big, bad wolf who I saw leaving here said he'd huff and he'd puff and .."

Oh dear. We'll put this to rights anon, but leaving our confused little bear for the moment, perhaps we can spare a moment to review some of the problems he's created here ... 

Who, whom and whose also create problems for many other little bears out there, but there's an easy test you can use to check which belongs where - and it's quite safe - so even the kiddies can try this.

Step 1. Look at the table below ... go on, it won't hurt just to look.

Step 2. Think about what you've seen (ah-ha - the hard part!)

Step 3. Now, whenever you come across a sentence containing any of the Troublesome Three, just substitute another pronoun.

So, to choose the correct form of the pronoun who, re-phrase the sentence so you choose between he and him. If him fits, write whom; if he sounds right, use who.

Who do you think has been sleeping in Baby's bed? (Do you think he has been sleeping in Baby's bed?)

Whom should we call? (Should we call him?)

The table below has made several appearances in past newsletters, but it never hurts to re-run the classics:






1st person




2nd person




3rd person

he, she, it

him, her, it

his, hers, its






1st person




2nd person




3rd person








The "nom." is the NOMINATIVE and simply relates to the main word in a sentence (the "naming" word) - to find out which word in a sentence is the naming word or Boss, ask yourself (quietly, of course - you don't want people becoming nervous in your presence) "who?" or "what?" BEFORE the verb.

She loves him.

'loves' is the "action" word - the verb - so, who loves? SHE does, therefore 'she' is nominative case. Look at the table above and you'll see now why no-one says, "HER loves him," because 'her' is the objective case.

The "obj." is the OBJECTIVE case which is (naturally enough) the OBJECT of the verb's (and subject's) attention. Always ask "whom?" or "what?" AFTER the verb to find out which words are in the objective case.

She loves him.

She loves whom? HIM. Again, by looking at the table, you can see why we wouldn't say, "She loves HE."

Words we call PREPOSITIONS (goodness knows what their fathers call them when they get home late....) are ALWAYS followed by objective pronouns. Prepositions are, basically, words which "show position" (more about them later...I know, I know, you can hardly wait, but you must learn patience).

to, from, with, about, under, beyond etc.

So, the correct expression is :

Jim is going to the film with you and ME (NOT "...with you and I").

Possessive Pronouns - are those which indicate...possession (see? Aren't I always telling you it's easy?)

MY car, YOUR house, OUR holiday, ITS kennel, THEIR decision, WHOSE job

Notice, please, that the expression who's is conspicuous by its absence - because it's a contraction of two words: who and is (or sometimes has). Use the same procedure here as you do when you find yourself on the horns of that other dilemma: its and it's.  Substitute the words who is (or has) in the sentence and if it makes sense, then use who's. If not, whose is your man!

... Mumma Bear, who's apron partly hid him. (... Mumma Bear, who's [who is] apron partly hid him ... I don't think so ...)

... Mumma Bear, whose apron partly hid him. (She owns the apron ... look at the table and you'll see whose is a possessive pronoun.)

Let's revisit our confused bear and set him straight:

"Who's been sleeping in my bed?" asked Baby Bear, peeping around from behind Mumma Bear, whose job it was to answer the same inane question every morning.

"Don't be such a baby, Baby," said Big Sister Bear. "The little bear who lives here has been sleeping in it .... duh!"

Have Your Say ...

Leave a comment now 

This week's quiz:

Righto - do what must you do with these ... desultory, supercilious, propitiate, foment, mercurial, splenetic, contentious, mitigate, expatiate, slake

1. appease, lessen, propitiate

2. to roam, wander freely

3. appease, mitigate

4. to assuage, to satisfy, allay

5. argumentative, pugnacious, combative, quarrelsome

6. disdainful; characterized by haughty scorn

7. quick, changeable in character, fleeting

8. aimless, haphazard, digressing at random

9. to stir up, arouse, incite

10.bad-tempered, irritable

I've just finished reading a book sent to me by Peter Bowerman, that discusses his life as a freelance commercial writer. For anyone contemplating trying to earn a living from writing, this is a must-read. Does this sound like you? Click here: 

Mi'Chaela Mills sent this follow-up the recent mention of the scam letter: 

I'm replying to your October 5th newsletter on scams.

The telephone number you listed in the email is really a long distance scam.
  The 873 areas code is a number in the Bahamas.  If anyone calls this
number, their calling information gets forwarded to a Bahaman's long distance
company that tracks the number like a calling card access number.  The the
receiving person gets your phone number, he then has access and
authorization to charge long distance calls to your number via long distance
calling card access.

After you've made that phone call, you will then start getting long distance
bills that could amount up to $20,000 per month.

The bad thing about this is that the FCC does not have jurisdiction over
international long distance companies, so the caller is stuck with a bill he
did not truly authorize the company to bill him.  Then you are also stuck
with disputing this bill with a long distance company, which again will cost
you long distance charges, because the 800 # are only domestic.

Please inform your members of this expensive scam.

Check out this site from the  regarding this particular scam.

And Mike Gnitecki passed these warnings along: 

Also, from ScamBusters (   "The U.S. Secret Service has instructed anyone in the US who has lost funds because of this scam to forward appropriate written documentation to:

U.S. Secret Service
Financial Crimes Division
950 H Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20001.
(202) 406-5850
Or send email using the Secret Service
form or
direct to

If you have received a letter, but have not lost any monies to this scheme, please fax a copy of that letter to (202) 406-5031."

Good advice!


On a lighter note ... ahem. Here's a story I received from Brad ... sound like anyone you know?

An elderly man in Phoenix calls his son in New York and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I  are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."  

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

"We can't stand the sight of each  other any longer," the old man says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm  sick of talking about this, so you  call your sister in Chicago and tell  her," and he hangs up.

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.  "They're not getting divorced if I have anything to do about it," she shouts, "I'll  take care of this."

She calls  Phoenix immediately, and screams at the old man, "You are NOT getting  divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there.  I'm calling my  brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a
thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife.  "Okay," he says, "they're coming for  Thanksgiving and paying their own fares...Now what do we tell them for  Christmas?

Oh dear ... they wouldn't ... would they?

Last week's quiz:

Match the words in the list with their definitions below:

irascible, stygian, facetious, stymie, maladroit,  trenchant, baneful, detumescence, philistine, edifying

1. enlightening - EDIFYING

2. a smug ignorant person; one who lacks knowledge - PHILISTINE

3. clumsy, bungling - MALADROIT

4. diminishing or lessening of swelling - DETUMESCENCE

5. gloomy, dark - STYGIAN

6.causing harm or ruin, pernicious, destructive - BANEFUL

7. irritable, easily angered - IRASCIBLE

8. humorous, funny, jocular - FACETIOUS

9. forceful, effective, vigorous; extremely perceptive, incisive - TRENCHANT

10. to hinder, obstruct, or block - STYMIE

Here's a clever way to make sure you don't inadvertently spread viruses - thanks to David for passing it along:

The following will not stop your PC from being infected with a virus, but it will stop it spreading to your friends and business associates.

Most viruses spread by automatically emailing themselves to ALL contacts in the address book of the infected PC. By following the below method it will save you from the embarrassing situation of having to tell all your friends and associates that you may have inadvertently mailed them a virus.

The method

In your address book add a contact as just AAAA. This will make it the first address in your address book. Do not give it an email address. If you do get infected with a virus, when it tries to forward itself to all in your address book, you will receive an error message "The message could not be sent. One or more recipients do not have an email address."

Simply go to your outbox and delete the message. You then only have to worry about cleaning up your own PC.
If you forward this message to all your contacts then the chances of them sending you a virus will also be reduced.

That sounds sensible to me - what do you think?

Mondegreen of the week: When I was a kid we went to Mass every Sunday.  During the Eucharistic Prayer I was convinced the priest was saying "On Wisconsin intersections we rely for help" (this is the state I'm from).

It was actually, I learned some years later "on whose constant intercession we rely for help." Still have to
laugh at that!
(Rebecca Toenness)

Word of the week: 
I hope you've had your dinner's one for the parents: Rhinotillexomania (n) Habitual or obsessive nose-picking.

This word featured at the recent IgNobel Awards for research that should never have taken place and you can read the actual (really and truly) research that coined this term here. ... I kid you not. Other awards went to research into Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts and the question of  why shower curtains billow inwards.

This week's Latin phrase will also come in handy for parents everywhere:

Favete linguis! (Keep quiet!) 

fah-WAY-tay LIN-gwis.



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