Grammar lesson: ‘us’ vs. ‘we’

grammar lesson we vs. us

Pronouns can be tricky. Many people misuse them, but we’re here to clear up the confusion so you can speak and write more confidently. In today’s grammar lesson, we will cover the correct usage of “us” and “we.”

When to use the subject pronoun “we”:

Use the pronoun “we” when it is the subject of a sentence or when it renames the subject of a sentence. Take a look at these examples:

  • “We Americans cherish our freedom.”
  • “Us Americans cherish our freedom.”

The word “Americans” is the subject, and the pronoun simply renames it, so the first sentence with “We” is correct.

To ensure that you choose the correct pronoun, eliminate every word except the pronoun and the verb. You should be left with a clause that still makes sense: “We cherish” vs. “us cherish.” The correct choice is obvious: “We cherish.”

“We birds of a feather flock together” contains another example of a pronoun that renames the subject. “Birds” is the subject of the sentence, so the correct pronoun is “We.”

When to use the object pronoun “us”:

Use the pronoun “us” as a direct object, an indirect object and the object of a preposition. Examples:

  • In the sentence “Our company flew us to Bangkok for a conference,” “us” is serving as the direct object.
  • In the sentence “Please send us a proof of the letter by Monday,” “us” is serving as the indirect object.
  • In the sentence “The holiday bonuses were greatly appreciated by us employees,” “us” is the object of the preposition “by.” Note: In this case, changing the sentence from passive to active tense would be a big improvement: “We employees greatly appreciated the holiday bonuses.” If you made that change, the pronoun would once again be renaming the subject, so “We” would be correct.

What other grammar lessons would you like to see covered in this column?

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5 responses to “Grammar lesson: ‘us’ vs. ‘we’

  1. Always good to sort out those pesky pronouns ;-)

  2. excellent!!!

  3. Hi, My daughter has to decipher between “us” and “we” in the following sentence. “The clerk handed us/we shoppers coupons for toys”. Can you tell me which pronoun is correct?

    • Columbia Books, LLC

      Hello. The correct usage would be “The clerk handed us shoppers coupons for toys.” If you eliminate every word except the pronoun and the verb, you are left with “handed us” which makes sense. “Handed we” doesn’t.

      • Hello and thanks. You know, I saw that I needed to narrow it right down to the verb and pronoun, but I still couldn’t get it clear in my head. Dahh! Thanks for your reply.

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