Consider the following example:

  • It is you who has taken the garbage out.

  • It is you who have taken the garbage out.

Does one use "has" or "have" in this sentence construction? Which of the two best fits? Which is grammatically correct?

  • If "you" is plural, use "have"; if "you" is singular, use "has". – Hellion Jun 2 '14 at 20:07
  • 1
    @Hellion I disagree with this. You wouldn't say *you is (in standard English); it sounds very odd to me to say *you who is. // In answer to the question, go with have. – Anonym Jun 2 '14 at 20:10
  • 1
    More to the point, I wouldn't say you has. However, you is not the subject in the construction given, it's really who. And yes, I wouldn't normally ask who have done this?, but English is full of special cases. – Hellion Jun 2 '14 at 20:15
  • Anonym is correct. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 2 '14 at 21:01
  • 6
    Hellion is correct that you is not the subject of the relative clause. However, who, which is the subject, means you, and therefore is second person, just like you, so it forces second-person agreement (i.e, have) in the relative clause. – John Lawler Jun 2 '14 at 21:45

OP's example: It is you who has/have taken the garbage out.

Issues involving personal pronouns that are the antecedent for a relative clause, such as in an it-cleft, are sometimes not so simple--that is, they can sometimes be notoriously unclear. There are well-known types of examples where such difficulties show up, such as: I saw he/him who would soon wear the crown.

The OP's question is about an it-cleft. And so, this post will address that.

It seems to me that reasonable grammatical rationales could probably be made for both versions.

Here are some somewhat related examples that are considered to be grammatical in today's standard English. In CGEL on page 459:

  • [9.i.a] It is I who love you.

  • [9.i.b] It is me who loves you.

  • [9.ii.a] It is I she loves.

  • [9.ii.b] It is me she loves.

And in CGEL on page 507:

(g) 3rd person override in cleft relatives


  • i. It is I [who am at fault]. - - [simple agreement]

  • ii. It is me [who is at fault]. - - [3rd person override]

Example [i] follows the general rules for relative clauses, with the relative pronoun who being construed as 1st person singular by virtue of its anaphoric relation to I. In the less formal [ii], however, the antecedent is in accusative case, and here the 1st person property is not carried over to who, the latter therefore takes on the default 3rd person feature.

So, some people can use the rationale involving "the general rules for relative clauses" to support the acceptability of:

  • 1) It is you who have taken the garbage out.

While some people can use the rationale that the "you" in the main clause ("It is you") is in accusative case, and so the cleft's relative clause can take the "default 3rd person feature" (whether singular or plural, er, that could be subject to discussion too), and so:

  • 2) It is you who has taken the garbage out.

I suspect that context could have a strong influence on the choice: A plural "you" could prefer the plural "have", and a singular "you" could prefer a singular "has". The style and register could also affect the choice.

I think people could make stronger (or weaker) grammatical arguments and rationales to support one position or the other. And perhaps they could provide the corresponding contexts to support those positions, and perhaps also provide some vetted grammatical sources--which would also be nice.

(Aside: Questions like this one, which are asked by brand-new members, tend to raise some suspicion: Is this an interesting question that is innocently asked? or, Is the asker a linguistics student trying to pull on a tail or two? Yea, I be paranoid, as I be stuck on this tree of woe.)

Note that CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL).

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    This is a good answer. I will concede that, whereas in it is I who love you 'love' is the obvious choice (to me, at least), in it is me who love(s) you the answer is less clear. It seems that the objective pronoun is often treated as a regular third-person noun in colloquial English: compare here's me! with here I am! – Anonym Jun 3 '14 at 1:41
  • This Ngram is really interesting. Whether correct or incorrect, it seems we've adopted "it is you who has" to some degree. Note the addition of "it is you who have" as well. – njboot Jun 3 '14 at 15:35
  • 1
    @njboot Also, if you run the Ngram with the asterisk wildcard character "it is you who *", there's a bunch of interesting stuff. When you look at some of the excerpts ("have" vs "has"), it seems that the 3rd person is the more informal, casual type of usage. I also looked at an Ngram of "give" vs "gives" when using that string. In general, I don't think it is a matter of "correctness"--both types of usage have most likely been standard for a long, long time. What the Ngram is probably showing is that the formal usage was more prevalent in printed material (and still is). – F.E. Jun 3 '14 at 16:25
  • 1
    Thank you for your well-explained and credible response to my question! I really appreciate it! – Professor X Jun 4 '14 at 17:18

Regardless of whether the referent of "you" is singular or plural, the correct sentence is:

It is you who have taken the garbage out.

See: "Verb is inevitably governed by the subject; In the case of a Relative Pronoun; it is to be governed by the antecedent of the relative pronoun."**

It is you [singular antecedent but taking the common second-person agreement] who [relative pronoun] have [singular verb] taken the garbage out.

It is you [plural antecedent] who [relative pronoun] have [plural verb] taken the garbage out

You (s/p) = who --> have

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Wrong. Verb agreement is invariant under clefting. You have taken the gargage out => It is you who have taken the garbage out. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 2 '14 at 21:00
  • 2
    Again incorrect (syntactically, and factually, but the latter is off-topic). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 2 '14 at 21:37
  • @EdwinAshworth Thanks. I see the distinction now (I believe). I've edited the answer accordingly. If it's still incorrect, I'm just going to delete it. – njboot Jun 2 '14 at 22:21
  • 1
    Yanno, I think that maybe I preferred your first version of this post. :) – F.E. Jun 3 '14 at 1:32
  • 1
    @F.E. I brooded over this for a while. Edwin ultimately convinced me otherwise, so I flip-flopped (and he actually edited my post to clarify it further!). I'm really no grammarian. Now I'm back on the fence after reading your response! (not really, but it's a really good answer). Also, thanks for making sure this didn't get closed! It's a good Q. – njboot Jun 3 '14 at 1:38

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.