Language Barrier

“Sir, can I work with someone else?”

“With whom?”


“With whom would you like to work?”


With whom would you like to work?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“What do you mean, ‘Whaddya mean?’ You asked if you could work with someone else.”

“Yeah. Can I?”

“It depends. With whom would you like to work?”


“What’s the problem? I’m not going to let you work with just anyone.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So with whom would you like to work?”

“Whaddya mean ‘whom’?”

“I mean, with whom would you like to work?”

“What’s ‘whom’? I don’t know that word.”

“Ah, I see. ‘Whom’ is the objective case of ‘who’.” The declension of pronouns is clearly beyond his grasp. The despair of the inevitability of having to end a sentence with a preposition begins to weigh upon me. “Who do you want to work with?”



A fourteen-year-old boy, very intelligent for his year group according to standards of the day, looks back at me like I’m some kind of idiot. He mutters sarcastically to whomever will notice as he walks away, “What’s he on about? Whom. Why doesn’t he just speak English?”

3 Responses to “Language Barrier”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    I always remember when I was 13 and we had our first Latin lesson in school.

    Before we could learn any Latin at all, our elderly teacher had to give the majority of the class intensive English grammar lessons before we could even start “amo, amas. amat ” etc, as three out of the four primary schools in our town did not teach English grammar in any meaningful manner at all, whereas the school I attended did teach English, but was not good at teaching Maths.

    Consequently I sailed through the Latin but was a complete failure at Maths, and I never ever caught up.

  2. Athanasia Says:

    This kind of stuff drove my Dad absolutely nuts! Proper English. We always were hammered about prepositions. He still can recite them like he did in grammar school!

  3. Grumpy Says:

    You’re not alone. I get the same kinds of responses to short simple sentences all the time.

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