"My son and I are..." or "am..."?

6

4

My son and I are your fans.
My son and I am your fans.

Which is correct?

Nyein Thu

Posted 2016-08-04T16:33:54.067

Reputation: 69

Question was closed 2016-08-05T05:50:24.947

Answers

7

Deciding which verb form to use in the predicate is almost always a matter of simple maths. A singular subject takes a singular verb, and a plural subject takes a plural verb. Taking your sentence apart, we have a subject phrase:

My son and I

We also have a predicate phrase:

are/am your fans.

The first and most important question here is: How many people are described in the subject phrase "My son and I?"

The answer is two, and 2 is greater than 1. This means that it is a plural subject. The plural form of the present tense of the verb to be is are. This means that the correct and normal construction is:

My son and I are your fans.

This can be confusing to new learners of English, perhaps because they have learned to conjugate to be as:

Singular:
  I am
  You are
  He/she/it is

Plural:
  We are
  You are
  They are

Now they are presented with a sentence which contains I are! How can this possibly be correct? English is too confusing!

The simple rule to follow is: A singular subject takes a singular verb, and a plural subject takes a plural verb.

P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica

Posted 2016-08-04T16:33:54.067

Reputation: 9 373

Well, there are some contexts where it's not exactly straightforward to decide whether some noun phrase should take a singular or plural verb. There's my “There is/are more than one”. What's the difference? for one. Where I quite enjoyed being able to irrelevantly include *species* (which just happens to be both singular and plural, to add to the confusion! :)

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-04T23:54:33.217

@FumbleFingers Thus I have deployed the trusty almost always in the first sentence. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-05T00:16:32.053

Almost always a reliable sidekick! It's not essential, but it's almost always best to deploy him in the first wave (with backup in case he gets cut down by "Hardly ever!" or "Not where I come from!" in the initial fray! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-05T00:21:57.467

-1

First of all, not funs. It should be fans. You probably just misspelled it.

And it should be are, of course, because we are talking about more than one person.

My son and I are your big fans.

More examples:

Mark and I are going to Paris.
She and I are very good friends.
John and I are coworkers.

Michael Rybkin

Posted 2016-08-04T16:33:54.067

Reputation: 37 124

3Not my -1, but In English, we almost never place the first person pronoun first in a series as you have done. It's a matter of custom, based on the belief that it is impolite to put one's self before other. "Mark and I" would go to Paris. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-04T17:38:02.050

Minor correction: not we. YOU don't start a sentence with "I". Other people do. – Michael Rybkin – 2016-08-04T21:32:28.230

Hm. Personally, I agree with P. E. Dant. It sounds weird. – whitedevil – 2016-08-04T21:46:16.187

5@CookieMonster Among native speakers you will almost never hear the construction as you have it. (I assume that you grasp the qualifier almost never.) It is a matter of custom, breeding, good manners, or the result of the imprecations of countless parents and English teachers. However, it is not grammatically incorrect to phrase it as you have done here. You may commonly hear the colloquial Me and Mark are going to Paris, but the first person subjective is very seldom used in such a construction. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-04T21:58:45.777

1

@CookieMonster This is worth reading: Patterns of prestigious deviance. "Specifically, "me and someone" is about three times more common than "someone and me"; whereas "I and someone" is more than "slightly impolite" — it hardly ever occurs." -- BTW, not my downvote either.

– Damkerng T. – 2016-08-05T07:21:25.747

1The I preceding or succeeding the other person seems pretty subjective as per this discussion chain. I guess, it is better to place the I afterwards to avoid the wrath of the native speakers. – KarthikS – 2018-11-21T17:36:52.187

-2

Subject-verb concord or agreement in English can sometimes get complicated, especially when you deal with pronouns. In such a short sentence as

My son and I are your fans

the verb are works not only because it obeys the rule of plural subject ('my son and I') and plural verb ('are') but also because it does not sound "off" or somehow "wrong."

However, in a longer sentence such as

My son, who by the way is 16 and is the father of five children, and I am among your greatest fans

the version with am may be judged by many native speakers to be "correct", especially in spoken English, chiefly because of the proximity or closeness of I with am, as compared to the much longer distance between the first subject ('my son') and the verb to be.

This is called the principle of proximity, which is a fancy way of saying that what sounds best is to match the verb to the closest subject, thus am in my sentence above.

I quote:

the principle of proximity sometimes plays a part in subject-verb agreement. This principle is the tendency, especially in speech, for the verb to agree with the closest (pro)noun, even when that (pro)noun is not the head of the subject noun phrase.

See proximity agreement (grammar) at about dot com.

However, to use are in my sentence would not be wrong and in fact would obey the rule of grammatical concord.

Alan Carmack

Posted 2016-08-04T16:33:54.067

Reputation: 11 630

3

I don't buy that version with am is judged by many native speakers to be the "correct" version. It sounds awful to me, and I'm not aware I've ever heard it from a competent native speaker. I got bored after looking at the first two pages of written instances of my wife and I am in Google NGrams, but trust me - none of the ones I looked at were contextually relevant.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-04T18:19:22.350

Having said that, I accept that Either the students or the teacher WAS enjoying the picnic would be acceptable to many because of the "principle of proximity" (somewhat over-applied even in that case, imho). But your example seems to me to go way beyond contexts where it can really come into play. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-04T18:23:29.867

Agree with Fumblefingers: "my son and I am" is simply wrong. – Hellion – 2016-08-04T18:38:43.290

1@FumbleFingers Here we go again. I are getting tired of this, and so am everybody. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-04T20:15:45.750

@P. E. Dant: Don't throw in the towel! It's a poor showing when after 42 views and 2 answers, the most sensible thing we've got here is your initial comment. I agree it's all a bit basic (the "principle of proximity" isn't really relevant here, and it's nowhere near as tricky as “There is/are more than one”. What's the difference?). But if you could just bring yourself to post your comment as an answer (expanded or not, as you see fit) we wouldn't look quite so amateurish. This issue does seem to fox some learners.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-04T21:12:03.220

@FumbleFingers I have lengthened the sentence demonstrating "the principle of proximity." – Alan Carmack – 2016-08-04T23:30:34.827

1@Alan: Sorry, but it doesn't work for me. Perhaps because I already know from prior exposure that the interminably long first np is going to eventually be followed by *and* plus a tiny little second np. I can just about understand that the speaker accidentally got himself into such a pickle, but I don't see how he could "accidentally" forget to pluralise the verb. In practice he's more likely to try and "rebalance" things with *My son [enormous parenthetical digression] and I, we are among your greatest fans*. No principle of proximity licences *am*, in my opinion. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-04T23:43:45.097