"It's me" vs "It is I"(Usage Disputes)
(freely adapted from an article by Roger Lustig) Fowler says: "_me_ is technically wrong in _It wasn't me_ etc.; but the phrase being of its very nature colloquial, such a lapse is of no importance". The rule for what he and others consider technically right is *not* (as is commonly misstated) that the nominative should *always* be used after "to be". Rather, it is that "to be" should link two noun phrases of the same case, whether this be nominative or accusative: I believe that he is I. Who do you believe that he is? I believe him to be me. Whom do you believe him to be? According to the traditional grammar being used here, "to be" is not a transitive verb, but a *copulative* verb. When you say that A is B, you don't imply that A, by being B, is doing something to B. (After all, B is also doing it to A.) Other verbs considered copulative are "to become", "to remain", "to seem", and "to look". Sometimes in English, though, "to be" does seem to have the force of a transitive verb; e.g., in Gelett Burgess's: I never saw a Purple Cow, I never hope to see one; But I can tell you, anyhow, I'd rather see than be one. The occurrence of "It's me", etc., is no doubt partly due to this perceived transitive force. In the French _C'est moi_, often cited as analogous, _moi_ is not in the accusative, but a special form known as the "disjunctive", used for emphasis. If _etre_ were a transitive verb in French, _C'est moi_ would be _Ce m'est_. In languages such as German and Latin that inflect between the nominative and the accusative, B in "A is B" is nominative just like A. In English, no nouns and only a few personal pronouns ("I", "we", "thou", "he", "she", "they" and "who") inflect between the nominative and the accusative. In other words, we've gotten out of the habit, for the most part. Also, in English we derive meaning from word position, far more than one would in Latin, somewhat more than in German, even. In those languages, one can rearrange sentences drastically for rhetorical or other purposes without confusion (heh) because inflections (endings, etc.) tell you how the words relate to one another. In English, "The dog ate the cat" and "The cat ate the dog" are utterly different in meaning, and if we wish to have the former meaning with "cat" prior to "dog" in the sentence, we have to say "The cat was eaten by the dog" (change of voice) or "It is the cat that the dog ate." In German, one can reverse the meaning by inflecting the word (or its article): _Der Hund frass die Katze_ and _Den Hund frass die Katze_ reverse the meaning of who ate whom. In Latin, things are even more flexible: almost any word order will do: Feles edit canem Feles canem edit Canem edit feles Canem feles edit Edit canem feles Edit feles canem all mean the same, the choice of word order being made perhaps for rhetorical or poetic purpose. English is pretty much the opposite of that: hardly any inflection, great emphasis on order. As a result, things have gotten a little irregular with the personal pronouns. And there's uncertainty as to how to use them; the usual rules aren't there, because the usual word needs no rules, being the same for nominative and accusative. The final factor is the traditional use of Latin grammatical concepts to teach English grammar. This historical quirk dates to the 17th century, and has never quite left us. From this we get the Latin-derived rule, which Fowler still acknowledges. And we *do* follow that rule to some extent: "Who are they?" (not "Who are them?" or "Whom are they?") "We are they!" (in response to the preceding) "It is I who am at fault." "That's the man who he is." But not always. "It is me" is attested since the 16th Century. (Speakers who would substitute "me" for "I" in the "It is I who am at fault" example would also sacrifice the agreement of person, and substitute "is" for "am".)
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