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An acquaintance recalled this specific example from an English textbook, but it is jarring to my native ear. Is this an example of prescriptive grammarians gone wild?

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I have exactly the same question, that is why I stopped by. As I read this quotation the structure, of it sounded odd to me: "Where is past, where is future, where is present, where is space, where is even eternity - for me who am stablished in the glory of the Self, my true being?" –  user16806 Jan 8 '12 at 12:50
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In other words, are relative clause heads opaque to agreement in person? –  Mechanical snail Sep 12 '12 at 5:14
    
I think this grammatical usage was much more common in the past. Today (the sticklers say) the language is going to the dogs. –  GEdgar Dec 26 '12 at 22:41
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The wags have always taken a lead. –  Edwin Ashworth Dec 26 '12 at 23:21

10 Answers 10

up vote 26 down vote accepted

It is grammatical, but it is indeed extremely jarring. It is (to me at least) just as jarring (if not more so) to say

*Remember me, who is your friend.

A much better way to express the idea is to say

Remember me, your friend.

On what basis do I say that it is grammatical, if it is so jarring?

  1. It is usual, in formal English, to make the verb in the clause subordinated by who agree in person with the its antecedent:

    I, who am about to die, salute you

    but not *I, who is about to die, salute you

  2. Though me is the object in the main clause, one of the roles of who is that it can relate an object in the main clause to a subject in a subordinate clause:

    I see the man who killed my father.

    Here the man is the object of see in the main clause, but who links it to the subject of killed in the subordinate clause.

  3. Therefore, logically, the verb after who should be am. But grammar does not always follow logic so smoothly, so it's worth checking actual usage. Searching the British National Corpus for "me , who am" returns only two results, but they are relevant:

    I am being taken to the realms of the People, who hate nature as much as they hate me , who am unnatural.

    [...] you permitted me , who am in any case only a half-time servant, to travel alone.

    However, searching for "me , who is" returns no relevant usage - only irrelevant hits such as

    Explain to me , who is YOUR GOD?

    So logic and usage seem to be in accord - this expression, though ugly, is grammatical.

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Another terrific answer! I can see I'm going to end up following you around hoping for more such gems lol. To me, the bizzare thing is that (at least some) people are prepared to write such ungainly things. I don't know that it's always deliberately done for effect, and I find it hard to believe it could ever be done by accident. Writers, eh? Who'd 'ave 'em? –  FumbleFingers Jun 5 '11 at 23:17
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FWIW, the OED has 19 citations with ‘me who am’, and 24 with ‘I who am’. There are none for ‘me who is’ or ‘I who is’. –  Barrie England Jun 17 '12 at 6:28

I don't think this is grammatical. Not only have I never seen an example of this construction in the wild (of course, I don't go looking for such things), I don't think it really parses sensibly.

'Am' goes only with the first person singular subject, so for this to be correct, it would have to be possible to replace "Remember me, who" with "I". Given that the construction already has "me", that phrase is more naturally interpreted as the object, which takes "is" in agreement with the third person.

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There you are - "of course, I don't go looking for such things". Nor would anyone in their right mind do so in normal circumstances. But this particular EL&U question is an unusual situation wherein @psmears was prepared to go that extra mile, both in terms of parsing the grammar and finding related occurences in print. So, sorry - no upvote. –  FumbleFingers Jun 5 '11 at 23:22
    
@FumbleFingers: What are you talking about? Have you started commenting on every answer you don't upvote? –  Marcin Jun 6 '11 at 6:06
    
It was intended as a friendly observation, so please accept my apologies if it didn't come across that way. I was actually going to upvoted your answer because it was pretty much what I thought myself, but then I read @psmears answer and realised there was much more to it than that. –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 12:15

Since me is undoubtedly the first person singular, the verb to go with it has to be am. So yes, jarring though it is, the phrase is correct.

I think the unusual part of the phrase is that me, though the object of the sentence, is the subject of the subordinate clause, and the reader naturally tries to read to be as the main verb.

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I like this answer. I keep wondering if this is an instance of zeugma, but maybe not. –  tchrist Dec 26 '12 at 22:01

The underlying problem with this sort of construction is that we are essentially condensing two sentences into one, and forcing a dual subjective and objective role on the linking word in the ellipted form.

I am your friend.

Remember me.

Remember me, who am your friend. —here, me is the object of the (recommended) remembering, and the at least notional (some would claim not grammatically speaking) subject of the copula.

Unless a way of avoiding or at least hiding the conflict is found (e.g. reducing to an apposition, as psmears wisely advises), a rule to essentially allow one existing rule to be broken has to be fudged. Who will probably be claimed as the true subject of the copular construction.)

Another example in this area is the famous

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

The prescriptive 'over-rule' is that he/him (who is without sin), which links the letting and the casting the first stone, has its case governed by the letting (i.e. is in the objective) rather than by the casting the first stone. But (though hits are surprisingly low) Google stats indicate the 'incorrect' choice occurs three times as often as the 'correct'. Will the rule change!?

(In this case, the problem can be neatly hidden by substituting the uninflecting 'the man' for him/*he.)

Another rule is claimed for the relative pronouns themselves:

“. . . 'who' is nominative. 'whom' is accusative. In English, prepositions take the accusative.

Oh yes - and when counteraction occurs due to apocopation, the relative pronoun stays loyal to the relative clause.”

[This gem appears at Who/whom | Facebook , thankfully followed by:]

“Examples:

I am a person who likes apples. (nominative because 'who' is the subject of 'likes')

I am a person whom apples please. (accusative because 'whom' is the object...)

I am a person to whom apples are pleasing. (accusative because 'whom' is preceded by the preposition 'to')

I don't know who did that. (nominative because even though 'who' is the object of 'know', it is the subject of 'did' and it is loyal to the relative clause

… replies by Nicky” )

And with whoever / whomever:

Let whomever is without sin cast the first stone.

Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.

Let whomever that stone hit sue the perpetrator.

Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern (!?) English Usage, 1994 ed, agrees with the revisers who produced the RV of the Bible that the AV's:

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

demands too much grammatically of “the things” in requiring it to be both object of the two verbs seen and heard as well as the subject of entered.

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The KJV has “Our Father which art in heaven”, with the verb in the 2nd person singular, but the “New American Standard Bible” insists this should be “Our Father who is in heaven”. There has definitely been a shift in usage.

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Charles Dickens used this type of construction several times in his books, which to me is enough justification to use it.

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It is fun to look in Shakespeare ...

Who now are here, taking their leaves of me, Who am prepared against your territories, [Coriolanus]

For thou dost lord my heart, who am not born thy slave, [Sonnet 149]

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I agree with psmears that this sentence is grammatical, both for the reasons he provides and because of another example from the literature:

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; (Ephesians 3:8 KJV)

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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. –  choster May 18 at 21:22
    
This is more of a comment than an answer. –  tchrist May 18 at 22:20
    
There are 4 other answers which only cite references. I wonder if they should all be converted to comments... –  Daniel May 19 at 3:23

Shouldn't it be:

Remember me, who was your friend/Remember me, who is your friend...

Because, "am", can only be used for "I", not "me", or "mine".

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The first half would be correct in either event, so it doesn't help much. "Remember us, who are your friends", similarly is and doesn't. –  TimLymington Jun 5 '11 at 21:44
    
But "is" can't be used with me either... –  senderle Jun 5 '11 at 22:45

Milton's Devil says, "Myself am Hell." Who's gonna argue with Milton?

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Time. –  Mechanical snail Sep 12 '12 at 5:09
    
Milton's the man who drew up the Charges against Charles I. He hanged a King with his words. –  luser droog Dec 20 '12 at 10:58
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Beheaded actually. –  fdb Mar 4 at 0:28

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