Here’s a song everybody should know.
There was an episode (“Oldies But Young ‘Uns”) of Married… with Children in which Al Bundy is going crazy trying to figure out the name of a song. He keeps humming “hmmm hmmm himmmmm” throughout the whole episode and then does a crazy, happy dance when he finally hears the song in a record shop after losing all hope.
Well, The Beatles did a cover of it on their first record, Please, Please Me.
I don’t want to take anything away from the song or anything, and I understand rhyme is important when building lyrics, but there’s a pretty serious grammatical error in the lyrics that changes the entire meaning of the song.
Here are the lyrics from the first verse:
You come and ask me, girl,
To set you free, girl,
You say he loves you more than me,
So, I will set you free,
Go with him. (Anna)
Go with him. (Anna)
Read it over a few times and see if you can come up with what I’m getting at.
You say he loves you more than me
Specifically, I’m pointing out the usage of the pronoun, “me.” Clearly, from the rest of the context of the song, the person reciting the lyrics has heard from Anna that her other lover loves her more than the singer does. In that vein, if you expand the sentence and forget about the last word, it should get that across, so it becomes “You say he loves you more than I love you,” which you can collapse down to “You say he loves you more than I do,” which you can even further collapse down to “You say he loves you more than I.” This is grammatically correct, and “than” is used as a conjunction to show the comparison between the two different levels of love that Anna says these guys have.
In the lyric, “You say he loves you more than me,” “than” is used as a preposition, and “me” is the object of the prepositional phrase. The prepositional phrase is being used as a direct object to the word “loves.” Breaking it down further, the sentence is saying that this other lover loves Anna more than he loves the singer, and incorporating this into the lyric, it becomes, “You say he loves you more than he loves me.”
When I thought about it, that blew my mind.
Because the English language allows you to take some liberties to omit words from sentences for brevity, it leads to situations like the above. Luckily, we all know what it’s supposed to mean, and it sounds really good, so we go with it, but it’s important to be aware of the flaws in the language; the usage of than as a conjunction or a preposition is actually something that there is always heavy debate about.
(Of course, we’re completely ignoring the fact that the song title is “Anna (Go to Him)” and “go with him” is what is repeated throughout the song.)