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I was taught at school that the following expression is not grammatically correct:

Who is there? It's me.

The correct one is:

Who is there? It's I.

Can you let me know which one is accurate?

Here is a good explanation about both forms.

2
  • Yeah you have a valid question. But you could circumvent this whole dilemna, by saying your name : D Who is there? Hazro City... Jan 30, 2011 at 10:36
  • 1
    When I was little my mother took a pen to a children's book and replaced every instance of "it's me" with "it's I." That didn't stop me from using the former though in conversation.
    – tankadillo
    Jan 30, 2011 at 18:55

9 Answers 9

19

As reported from the NOAD:

me /mi/
pronoun [first person singular]

  1. used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself as the object of a verb or preposition:

    Do you understand me?
    Wait for me!

  • used after the verb to be and after than or as:

    Hi, it's me.
    You have more than me.

  • informal to or for myself:

    I've got me a job.

It's then correct to say it's me.

7
  • 12
    Well, NOAD (and dictionaries in general) report usage, not correctness. You would need to get a ruling from the Supreme Worldwide English Authority to know what is correct.
    – GEdgar
    Nov 25, 2011 at 17:51
  • 3
    There isn't such authority for English, differently from other languages. For French there is the Académie française, and for Italian there is the Accademia della Crusca ("Academy of Chaff").
    – apaderno
    Nov 25, 2011 at 19:49
  • 4
    Usage determines correctness, both historically and today.
    – jnm2
    Dec 12, 2016 at 13:16
  • @towry See this comment from Kosmonaut, who is a linguist.
    – apaderno
    Sep 6, 2017 at 10:24
  • 1
    @jnm2 Whose usage? How much usage? Nov 12, 2020 at 15:07
29

"It is ME" is not grammatically correct in the academic sense, but is used in spoken English.

"It is I" is grammatically correct in the pure sense, but would never be used in spoken English - or very rarely by people who speak in an ultra-formal dialect.

"It is I" would have been correct in Shakespeare's time, in spoken English, but not now.

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  • 1
    I think 'Shakespeare's time' is pushing it a bit. I would probably say late 19th/early 20th century in some circles.
    – user3444
    Jan 30, 2011 at 10:47
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    Just to add to tegner's answer, there are two other errors in the examples: - It should be "it's", not "its", as you are using this as an abbreviation for "it is". ("Its" means "belonging to it" or "part of it", etc). - "Me" is not capitalised (unless it's at the start of a sentence). Jan 30, 2011 at 11:58
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    "It's I" is not standard in written English anymore either.
    – Kosmonaut
    Jan 31, 2011 at 16:34
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    @tegner: Please give evidence that "'it is I' is grammatically correct in the pure sense" and "'it is me' is not grammatically correct in the academic sense" — these two claims are not backed up by usage or convention.
    – Kosmonaut
    Feb 1, 2011 at 14:29
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    I think "academic" is maybe not a good word to use. The people bandying about the notion that 'It is I' is "correct" are essentially twaddle-mongers, not academics. Jun 18, 2011 at 14:02
8

The answer to the question 'Who's there?' is 'It's me.' 'It is I' would normally be heard only when something else follows it, and then only in rather formal contexts, as in 'It is I who have done all the work, so it is I who should get the compensation.'

5

This question is related to I can run faster than... In that exchange nohat describes the pronouns being used in the nominative and accusative cases. Modern English speakers have become more comfortable using the accusative case in comparisons even though traditionally comparisons have used the nominative case. It is further noted that "both forms are standard."

Modern English has slurred the distinction between cases, using word order to denote case rather than declension. We still use different words for most personal pronouns (he/him, I/me, we/us), but have lost it for you/you. "I talk to you." "You talk to me."

When asking "Who is there?" it would be correct to answer in the nominative case, "I am here." Likewise, asking "Who is it?" should elicit "It is I" or "I am it."

3

"It is me," is more common, and correct. However, "It is I who am here," is also correct, and "who am here" can be left off and implied, making "It is I," also correct.

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    Maybe good to note the change of person when using "me" (I think): "It is I who am responsible" but "It is me who is responsible" (the latter with "am" just sounds wrong). Jun 12, 2014 at 8:44
  • But your examples just show how grammatically incorrect "it is me" is. "I am responsible" is correct, but one would never say "me is responsible".
    – Dustin G
    Jul 3, 2019 at 3:32
1

While it is formally correct to say "It's I", while informal or popular usage allows "It's me", it would be incorrect to say "It's him and I" (as in the title of a currently popular song), which mixes objective and nominative cases; it could be either "It's he and I" or "It's him and me".

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  • 1
    Why is “It’s him and I” wrong? It’s inconsistent, but how do you know inconsistency is wrong?
    – herisson
    Jan 4, 2018 at 19:43
  • This would make an excellent question. It is most definitely wrong, constituting a faulty parallel, but I'm hard-pressed to cite chapter and verse on it.
    – user191721
    Jul 1, 2019 at 13:01
  • 'It's we' is pushing it. Nov 12, 2020 at 15:10
1

The war and the battles for It is I as opposed to It is me, have been going on for a long time.

Old English did not use the object me after the verb to be. We said ic sylf hit eom (I self it am – it is myself), and Chaucer (who wrote in early Middle English) frequently writes "it am I", but never "it am me".

However, the Normans spoke a form of French and French is different and was an influence on English. French makes liberal use of the disjunctive form of the pronouns moi, toi, lui, eux, etc. after “to be” and other verbs that in Old English would have taken a nominative complement (I, thou, he, they). These were used in English as me, thee, him and them or as myself, thyself, himself and themselves.

In 1877, Ebenezer Cobham Brewer wrote in the entry on “me” in “Errors of Speech and of Spelling, Volume 1”

‘Me” is used after the verb To be, and after the words than, but, like, and as, with such pertinacity it is at least doubtful whether it is not correct. C’est moi is the French Idiom, not Cest je, and It is me is far more common than It is I.

So again, the French say il est plus riche que moi, -> “more rich than me,” or plus riche que je ne suis, -> “more rich than I am.”

Which is exactly the same as English.

Now it is important at this point to understand that “me” is not the accusative case, but the dative case. (Old English “me”)

Old English Singular. Nom. ic,

gen. min,

dative me,

accusative mec.

This is important as “Give it me!” = “Donnez-le moi! And “Give it to me!” = “Donnez-le moi! The indirect object (dative = me) becomes a prepositional phrase (to me) that is a complement.

These two points relate well to the use of “It is me” that developed in early modern English.

The disjunctive pronoun of French and the dative pronoun of English had a great overlap. They are both capable of being a complement.

It is also useful to look at the pronoun “myself” and consider if “It is me” and “it is myself” are equivalents.

At this point, it is helpful to have a look at the “official” French dictionary, Larousse: (My translation and with less relevant definitions omitted

Définitions

Moi

• Emphatic

• In apposition to I or me

• After a preposition,

after “It is”

• In phrases, “How do you want us to march?” - “Me at the front and them at the rear.”

• as the complement of an imperative – Give it me

• After like and as: You think like me.

You will note the similarities.

Ebenezer Cobham Brewer continues and gives “errors” that everyone would consider normal:

Who shall decide when doctors disagree,

And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me. (Pope, 1688 –1744)

Yet oft in Holy Writ we see

E’en such weak ministers as me

May the oppression break (Sir Walter Scott, 1771 – 1832),

Who’s there? It is me.

You know it was not me who told him.

It is me that has been the ruin of you.

it is me that has brought you to this misery.

It is not me who will be a trouble to you.

It is me, your friend and master, who advises it.

And then adds that he does not object to the following:

You did not suspect it to be me. You did not know it was me.

That picture Is just like me (like to me -> dative).

He likes you better than me (than he likes me).

He likes you better than I (than I like you).

It Is I, be not afraid.

In the intervening 140 years, all of the above examples have become acceptable.

The war for “It is I” is lost. We must move on.

-3

It varies on context.

Who called Jodie? It was he.

Who told you about it? It was I.

Who had the phone conversation? It must have been they.

Who cares? It is we.

A more thorough explanation

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  • Nobody talks like that anymore. "It must have been they" sounds ungrammatical to me.
    – siride
    Aug 25, 2013 at 16:51
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    @siride - It sounds ungrammatical because people have acquiesced to the usage of the incorrect version, so over time that's what sounds correct. For example, decades ago I started saying something like, "You did good", instead of the correct, "You did well", so as to not to sound too formal, but after a while it becomes natural to say it that way; but "You did good." actually has a different meaning, as in you did something good (for others).
    – Dustin G
    Jun 4, 2020 at 12:39
  • @DustinG I've never had any confusion on the matter. Context has always made it clear. There's no Platonically correct form of the language. Whatever the current convention is is correct. That's it. That's the end of it.
    – siride
    Jun 4, 2020 at 17:18
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    @siride - Usually convention changes through ignorance, or expediency, so depending on how recent the change is, whether one wants to intentionally use something or not may depend how ignorant, or hip, they want to appear during the transitional period. "Good" as an adverb is still considered informal. It seems like you stated at the end "That's it. That's the end of it." to avoid the cliché and rather arrogant current use of "Period". (I intentionally use the British usage of quotation marks that do not include the period or comma if it is not part of the quote, as it makes more sense.)
    – Dustin G
    Jun 5, 2020 at 19:09
-4

An aside: when you knock at a door, and someone from inside asks "Who's there?", Don't answer "Me" or "It's me". Aside from being ungrammatical, it conveys no information (unless the other person knows your voice).

We need to make the distinction between written and spoken English, especially informal spoken English - as between friends. Almost everyone says things like "Me and my brother went to the beach", but you certainly wouldn't say that giving a speech in a public forum.

Here's a good exlanation of the "it's me/I" construction:

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/it-is-i-versus-it-is-me?page=all

"The traditional grammar rule states when a pronoun follows a linking verb, such as "is," the pronoun should be in the subject case. It’s also called the “nominative.”

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    "It's me" does convey information because when you say it, you are using your voice, and your voice often identifies you. As such, it's the most minimal way to respond without revealing any other information.
    – siride
    Aug 25, 2013 at 16:52
  • @siride: One could answer "Guess who!" to make the guessing game obvious. Jun 12, 2014 at 8:46

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