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Which would it be--it is us, or it is we?

"Who is the real culprit? It is us, the ignorant, apathetic people of America."

Or, "Who is the real culprit? It is we, the ignorant, apathetic people of America."

Or plural?

"Who are the real culprits? They are us, the ignorant, apathetic people of America." (Sounds more like the name of a retail store--They R Us.)

marked as duplicate by Bradd Szonye, Matt E. Эллен, RegDwigнt Sep 12 '13 at 8:49

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  • "We have met the enemy and he is us." ---Pogo – MetaEd Sep 12 '13 at 3:25
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You'll find both potentially used, at least in formal usage-- it's essentially a matter of stylistic preference.

In more everyday usage, the most common, natural-sounding option is probably "It's us,..." with the contracted form (in other words, as far as everyday speech is concerned, asking whether "It is we" or "It is us" would be used is a slightly spurious question-- the answer is probably neither).

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A crude search of the COCA and the BNC shows that it is we is just over nine times more frequent in American English than it is us, but only about five and a half times more frequent in British English. There may thus be a certain amount of instability in the use of the first person plural personal pronoun, as indeed there is in all personal pronouns, and in particular in the first person singular.

My intuition is that nominative forms (I, he, she, we, they) are preferred when they are postmodified in some way, but that the accusative forms (me, him, us, them) are preferred when they are not (you and it being invariable). On those grounds, it might be advisable to use It is we here, and in any case fewer people are likely to object to it.

There, of course, ways of avoiding any difficulty altogether, and you have suggested one of them. Another alternative is something like:

Who are the real culprits? We are, the ignorant, apathetic people of America.

  • That is different to my search. I suspect that your results include a lot of "... it is we're..." or "what it is we did wrong" style of constructions, as that does indeed give 12 it is us against 68 it is we in the BNC. The 12 "it is us" hits are of the form "Too often it is us, the anxious onlookers" or " because it is us Germans who are today leading the way". If you clean the results by searching for a comma after "it is we" you get only 6 results. Add on a 'the' collocate and it falls to only two. – Roaring Fish Sep 12 '13 at 7:43
  • I expect you're right. – Barrie England Sep 12 '13 at 7:55
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It should be "Who is the real culprit? It is us, the ignorant, apathetic people of America."

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    Why? Do you have reasons for saying that? – Roaring Fish Sep 12 '13 at 4:31
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The it in it is us stands for 'the real culprit'. If you drop that back into the sentence, then

The real culprit is us, the ignorant, apathetic people of America.

is obviously correct and

The real culprit is we, the ignorant, apathetic people of America.

is obviously not correct.

  • Why the downvote? This answer is correct, and is explained in a good way too! – mikhailcazi Sep 12 '13 at 11:40

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