I still remember that lesson in elementary school when the teacher tried to convince us that, when someone calls and asks for us, the correct response is, “This is she (or whatever pronoun is appropriate in your case).” Yeah, we weren’t buying it either.
It was awkward and unnatural, and we’d never heard anyone say it in real life. But what is the correct usage?
I actually don’t like the term “correct usage.” I much prefer to call it standard usage because if a piece of grammar is what people use in real life and is understood and accepted by those around them, it’s not incorrect. It just hasn’t been standardized among the greater population yet.
That being said, the standard usage—what you’ll see in most English grammar books—is that the pronoun after the verb should be in subject form (I, she, etc. rather than me, her, etc.) if it is a verb complement. Basically, that means that if the pronoun after the verb means the same thing as the subject of the sentence, it’s a subject pronoun.
It’s easier to spot when this is the case because the verb involved is usually a form of to be (is, am, were, etc.).
Was that Alice at the door?
It was she.
In common usage, adhering to this rule sounds overly formal, and people rarely complain if you use the object form. In fact, this is one instance where breaking the rule could actually be preferable, especially in informal writing.
What sounds more natural to you?
It’s just I.
It’s just me.
How closely you adhere to the rule will depend on your subject matter and audience.
Rebecca Miller is a professional copyeditor and general fan of all things having to do with the written word and the English language.
You can check out her website at Oakdale Editing or connect through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Email.
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Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.