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The recurrent cholangitis happened in the past. But when I am discussing the event now, which of the following should I use?

  • It is the incomplete stone removal that caused the recurrent cholangitis.
  • It was the incomplete stone removal that caused the recurrent cholangitis.
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closed as general reference by jwpat7, MετάEd, Matt E. Эллен, Mitch, Cameron Oct 13 '12 at 5:35

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Why close? Can you say? – Kris Oct 12 '12 at 5:38
Either form is correct. There's no grammatical compulsion one way or the other. Depends on what you'd like to say and mean. Context! – Kris Oct 12 '12 at 5:39
Hey! What happened to the "It was I/me" question? My answer looks non sequitur now. – user21497 Oct 12 '12 at 8:19
When talking about the past, use the past. – Matt E. Эллен Oct 12 '12 at 8:21
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Grammatically both uses are acceptable. They have slightly different meanings so the correct form to use depends on your context.

If the "incomplete stone removal" can still be considered to be the causative agent for the "recurrent cholangitis" then you should use "It IS".

If however the incomplete stone removal stopped being the reason for the sickness or if perhaps there was some other factor at play then you could use "It WAS".

Our initial diagnosis indicated that it was the incomplete stone removal that caused the recurrent cholangitis. As there was no improvement in the patient's condition after complete removal of the stone residues it became apparent that another factor was involved.

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This answer can be improved by citing one or more reliable sources which support it. – MετάEd Oct 12 '12 at 6:58
First, etiology does not change, only the conclusions about the etiology change. Second, "another factor was involved" is ambiguous. Does it mean that incomplete stone removal + factor 2 were the causes or that only factor 2 was the cause (a new conclusion)? – user21497 Oct 12 '12 at 8:26

It was I who called is the formally correct English if you're taking a TOEFL test. If you're talking to someone who's just asked Who called?, you'd say "I did" or "It was me", or maybe even "Yo!", depending on the context.

Give us a context for this admission and someone will give you a more definitive answer.

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@ Bill Franke: In "It was I who called ", I'm not sure whether "I" should be replaced by "me". I always thought the in this sentence "I" is the object to the verb "was", and therefore "me" should be used instead. Was I right? – Yong Oct 12 '12 at 5:38
Really? Is TOEFL actually that stupid? Nobody ever says "It was I who called" in real English. I had thought better of TOEFL, but I suppose I'm hopelessly optomistic. – John Lawler Oct 12 '12 at 6:14
@JohnLawler: You don't know my stepmother (88 years old and a retired English teacher). She says it. Honestly. It's what many a properly educated person would have said 100 years ago. But you're right, almost nobody says that these days. Not even me. – user21497 Oct 12 '12 at 8:04
@Yong: The be verb isn't transitive, it's stative, and doesn't take an object. Almost all native speakers of English, educated or not, will say "It was me", but if you look at 19th-century and early 20th-century grammar books, you'll see that the prescriptive rule was to say "It was I". Click on this link: link and read all about it. Check it on the Net: Type it was i or it was me in a search engine window and you'll find lots of pages that say the same thing. – user21497 Oct 12 '12 at 8:14
In the 19th century, saying it that way was a mark of education -- one had studied Latin and understood its grammar. In the 21st, however, saying it that way is simply a mark of being old, inflexible, or poorly educated. – John Lawler Oct 12 '12 at 11:28

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