I know what you’re thinking. “Umm…Mrs. Abbett, isn’t EVERY song sneakily sabotaging my grammar? How did you narrow it down?”
Here’s the deal: I didn’t include songs with obvious errors, the kind so intense they’re basically just creative license.
Instead, I focused on errors I actually hear people make in the day-to-day. By hearing these lyrics over and over, they sneakily reinforce the issues to the point that (I think!) most people don’t even realize they’re issues!
Let’s be clear before we dive in: I have nothing against these songs or artists! We’re just talking about grammar here.
“Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran
“You and me are thrifty, so go all you can eat…Fill up your bag and I’ll fill up a plate.”
You and ME are thrifty?
I think not!
It should read: “You and I are thrifty…”
It doesn’t have the same ring to it, but here’s the trick to knowing which pronoun to use: take the other person out of the sentence. Would you say ME is thrifty or I am thrifty? (The verb can change to reflect who’s speaking).
Since “I am thrifty,” it’s “You and I are thrifty!”
“Better Now” by Post Malone
The first time I heard this song, I literally groaned.
I was driving to tutor some students and had a sickening sensation that, some years down the road, we’d start hearing kids everywhere begin to butcher the English past tense.
The part of the song in question?
“You probably think that you are better now (better now)
You only say that cause I’m not around (not around)
You know I never meant to let you down (let you down)
WOULDA GAVE YOU ANYTHING…WOULDA GAVE YOU EVERYTHING…”
In the normal past tense, “gave” is fine, like “I gave you everything.”
But that “woulda” changes things. Presumably it’s short for “would have,” which means we’re getting into conditionals and participles, so GAVE becomes GIVEN!
“[I] would have given you everything” is the grammatically correct line!
“Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber
In all fairness to Justin, almost no one properly uses the subjunctive, myself included.
The line I’m talking about?
“If I was your boyfriend, I’d never let you go.”
The subjunctive is slightly different in every language, but in English, people tend to confuse it with the past tense.
We say, “I was your boyfriend,” so when it becomes conditional, we also want it to be, “If I was your boyfriend.”
However, there is an IF! This is no longer something that happened in the past! It’s subjunctive now!
The correct line would be:
“If I WERE your boyfriend, I’d never let you go.”
In general, it’s “I was,” but “If I were…”
Dive deeper on the Vocabbett podcast! 👇