I am confused between these two: "Who am I" and "Who I am"

I read this phrase: "Do you know who am I?" - The person was threatening someone.

But what is the main difference in using these? "Do you know who am I?" or "Do you know who I am?"

Please explain in which case we use what?


6 Answers 6


Sitting at the end of the stairs, sobbing, having lost my love, career and self-respect, I say to myself, "Who AM I? What is the purpose of my life?" See, here it is a question. That's why the helping verb (am) is coming before the subject (I).

I ask myself who I am. Here, it is not a question, a mere narration of what I ask myself. So, it is not ending in question mark, plus, helping verb is after the subject.


The existential question 'Who am I?' strikes everybody at one stage or the other. But the delusional ones under the cover of their care-takers threaten others with 'Do you know who I am?' And the ones delusional even to the aspect of English grammar say, 'Do you know who am I?'

  • 2
    You should add this to your original answer, it's connected and adds an explanation for the "Do you know who am I?" This type of error is often called 'hypercorrection' You can tag that bit of information too, if you like.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 9, 2013 at 6:06

IMHO, "Who am I?" would be used when you introduce yourself, usually posing the question to the very person/people who you want to introduce yourself to, but immediately following it up with an introduction.

Person A:"Who the heck are you?"

Person B:"Who am I? I am the Supreme Ruler of the Universe."

Also, if you are unfortunate enough to lose your memory, you would be asking yourself(or the people around you) this question!

And, when you ask "Who I am?", the emphasis is on the "I". Thus a person will use it in a situation where he would want to highlight himself. I think its use is mostly rhetorical.

Person B: "How dare you laugh at me? Do you know who I am?"

Person A: "Uhh.. The Supreme Ruler of all the idiots in the Universe."


When people say, ''Who are you?'' you think back and say your name, but ask yourself, '' Who am I?'' don't think of your achievements, think of your habits, your skills, what defines your infinite.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU, truebeing. Perhaps you are making a legitimate existential point, but your answer seems to miss the point of the question.
    – ScotM
    May 2, 2015 at 2:29

Who am I to question that Sam is who I am?

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    That Sam-i-am, that Sam-i-am
    – mplungjan
    Aug 9, 2013 at 5:17

Illustrative Example:

Guest: Do you know who I am?

Host: Yes.

Guest: Then who am I?

Host: You are Sir Ericsson.

The phrase, "who I am" is a harsh interrogation which may be used in a furious tone.


The phrase "who am I" is a soft question, sometimes posed for self-realisation.

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