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Old 01-09-2007, 11:48 AM   #1
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You are not the boss of me - Grammar help

So my wife and I were talking last night and the phase "you are not the boss of me" came up. I remember being a kid and all the kids would say that. We would always get corrected though and told it should be "you are not my boss" instead.

Well now that I am older and actually care about proper grammar, I would like to know what the reason is behind this. My wife asked me and I did not know. I felt kind of dumb actually because I started to question if it even was wrong or if the adults at the time were just teaching us incorrectly. You are not the boss of me just does not sound right to me ear, but is it actually grammatically incorrect and if so, why?

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Old 01-09-2007, 11:52 AM   #2
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I always say, you're not my boss. Didn't realize that I was incorrect, but, sounds better and more mean that way, LOL
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Old 01-09-2007, 11:55 AM   #3
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Oh TG, what I am saying (as far as I know) is that you are correct to say it the way you are saying it. You are not incorrect from what I know.
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Old 01-09-2007, 11:58 AM   #4
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At the least, it's very non-standard sentence structure for American English.

I have noticed a reluctance to use possessives on TV news as well.
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:14 PM   #5
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Still a possessive in "my boss" though Andy. I think it was more to do with ending with the preposition so close to the end of the sentence.

OK, I SHOULD know the answer to this but I really don't. The only reason I can think of is that saying "you are not the boss of me" implies that they ARE the boss of someone. Whereas "you are not my boss" just suggests that they don't have influence over you. More of an implication rather than a grammatical error IMO.
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:18 PM   #6
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GB, judging by the sound of it, I think it's a silly expression. Silly or not, sometimes such phrases do catch on.
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alix
Still a possessive in "my boss" though Andy. I think it was more to do with ending with the preposition so close to the end of the sentence...


I meant there is no possessive in the original version, "You are not the boss of me".

I'd love to know why the media avoids possessives. Any idea?
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boufa06
GB, judging by the sound of it, I think it's a silly expression. Silly or not, sometimes such phrases do catch on.
Silly indeed. It was something that kids would say. For instance if a kid told another kid to move out of the way the response might be "No, you are not the boss of me. I am staying right here".
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:23 PM   #9
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Ooooooooooo! Gotcha Andy (clearly working late at night has a serious affect on my mental capacity in the AM *forehead slap*). I'll ask Ken about the possessives in media, but my suspicion is that the news folk are supposed to remain objective and using a possessive indicates a personal opinion. Just conjecture on my part though.
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:35 PM   #10
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I see nothing wrong with the sentence. If you were to change the noun at the end to a proper noun you'll see why. You are not the boss of John, or you are not the boss of that group. All grammatically correct.

You are not my boss, in my opinion, says the same thing as you are not the boss of me, only in less words.

It's not even the word 'me' at the end. Change the sentence....give it to me is correct, whereas give it to myself is wrong.

I've searched my education knowledge...and cannot find how the sentence is incorrect.
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:38 PM   #11
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Me too Vera. I ran through all those scenarios and all I could come up with was the implication of the sentence rather than the actual construction. Cool question. Wonder where Miss mudbug is? She will want to weigh in on this one.
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Old 01-09-2007, 01:41 PM   #12
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You're not the uncle of me.
You're not the garbage man of me.
You're not the friend of me.

Hmmm. I think it's just a standard word order issue. After all, they all make perfect sense and would be understandable by any speaker. It's this sort of thing that separate the natives from the foreigners!

(I just gave away my copy of the book that would have given us the answer here ("Practical English Usage" by Michael Swan, a teachers' reference that is wonderful and answers just this sort of weird question ...) and wouldn't you know, this is the FIFTH time I've wanted it since I gave it away. Gotta get another copy!)

Sorry, GB. Bottom line is that I'm no help.
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Old 01-09-2007, 03:11 PM   #13
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I believe it's because you are not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition (of, to, from, with...). I think. And I should know--it's a sad statement but I was an English major in college, received my degree with highest honors, and never once did I have to take a grammar course. In fact, the longest term paper I had to write was 10 pages!

Anyway, that's the only reason I can think of. Or is it of which I can think??!
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Old 01-09-2007, 03:17 PM   #14
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But the sentence does not end in a preposition. The last word is me.

On a side not, my cousin, who is a magazine editor, recently told me that the rule about ending a sentence in a preposition is not longer true. There was another part of the rule now, but I have since forgotten it. I found that really interesting and helpful since I do like to end in preps sometimes
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Old 01-09-2007, 03:26 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB
But the sentence does not end in a preposition. The last word is me.
Prepositional phrase ("of me"). Sorry.

I agree with your cousin. A lot of grammar rules are being revised. With email and the internet, conversational English is a lot more accepted in formal settings and in writing now.
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Old 01-09-2007, 03:29 PM   #16
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Language used to bore me, but I am really starting to find it fascinating!
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Old 01-09-2007, 04:18 PM   #17
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Quote:
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Language used to bore me, but I am really starting to find it fascinating!
Indeed, I find language, especially the written missive, fascinating. Claiming even the slightest grip of the language is much more than most can claim. Composition is truly a lost art of this century.
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Old 01-09-2007, 04:24 PM   #18
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'tis fascinating indeed, geebs.

"You are not the boss of me" is kind of grammatically correct, although awkward. Look at Ayrton's examples. "You are not the boss of her/him" has the same construction but sounds more likely to the ear. Usually we would say "not my/her/his boss" but also would say "not the boss of Alix/this department/the universe." There's probably a rule about using the pronouns (me, her, him) vs. the nouns (Alix, geebs, department, universe) but I've forgotten it.

You can end sentences with prepositional phrases. In fact, Winston Churchill came up with a beaut in response to that outdated rule: "That is a *** (not sure he actually used the word "rule") up with which I will not put."

We do it all the time:
When did you get in?
Who let the dogs out?
What's up?
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Old 01-09-2007, 04:31 PM   #19
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It's almost like an active/passive voice kind of difference.
eg: I bought the farm/the farm was bought by me.

"You are not the boss of me" is a slightly stronger construction than the other because of the position of "me". In the spoken word the most emphasis is gained by putting the important word at te end of the sentence.

Also, I agree with PA Baker; a prepostion is a bad thing to end a sentence with.
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Old 01-09-2007, 04:37 PM   #20
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Buck, I try to teach my engineers about the difference between active/passive voice as follows:
Active - the cow jumped over the moon
Passive - the moon was jumped over by the cow.

and the classic use of passive voice for when nobody wants to admit anything:
Mistakes were made.
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