"Is that your wretched husband on the phone again, my love?" "Yes, of course it's him!"

Well, we all might think the use of "him" instead of "he" is wrong, but following "is" with "he" in contemporary language, especially dialog, is probably worse. What would my English teacher say? And what about poor "whom," that has all but disappeared?

  • See I didn't realise it was him. Jul 11, 2016 at 12:53
  • I'm in the live-and-let-live camp, so in my (rule) book it's him, it's he, it is he, and it is him are all correct. Still your question is a good one, and I might squirm a bit at accepting all of "I'm right 1) ain't I 2) aren't I 3) amn't I? Here we tamper with the verb to be rather than with the pronoun, but it's the same issue. The rules of grammar are set aside, which, as I see it, is where they belong.
    – Airymouse
    Mar 19, 2017 at 16:58

2 Answers 2


“Predicate nominative” pronouns are not archaic as I would define the word. (I’ll use my definition of “archaic: since the question does not provide one.) I would say an “archaic” usage is one that is not generally encountered in ordinary speech or writing at any level of formality, like “thou," “thee" or "panteth."

But predicate nominatives can be encountered in ordinary modern writing and speech. Some may think of them as pretentious, or ungrammatical (from a linguistic point of view), but the fact remains that they exist in current usage, even if they sound bad to some people.

Obviously, this does not mean that they are usually used, or that they can be used in every situation. One notable feature of language is variety. There is rarely only one way to say things, and linguistic structures often can only be used, or are in practice only used, in certain contexts. Predicate nominatives are certainly not used much outside of formal contexts.

One particular circumstance where predicate nominatives are apparently still preferred over predicate accusative pronouns* is in sentences like “It is I who am at fault?” where the predicate personal pronoun is followed immediately by a subject relative pronoun that refers back to the personal pronoun.

*See Barrie England’s answer to the linked question, which references research mentioned in the ‘Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English’.

The part about "whom" really is a separate question, but "whom" is also not archaic yet. It is still a somewhat commonly selected option in formal contexts in pied-piped prepositional phrases introducing relative clauses, such as "The person of whom I speak" and it may even be encountered in non-standard formal-sounding constructions with extra prepositions such as "of whom I've heard so much about."

There's a big difference in meaning between a statement like "the predicate nominative/whom is not archaic" (which is true) and a statement like "the predicate nominative/whom is always used in all circumstances where it was traditionally prescribed" (which is false, and has been false for longer than you would probably expect).

  • I've been thinking about it lately, and it seems that It is I who... is being replaced with I'm the one who... Interesting stuff to observe.
    – Anonym
    Mar 19, 2017 at 3:13

Your English teacher would say that since your second sentence is of the "subject/linking-verb/predicate-nominative" type rather than of the "subject/action-verb/object" type, the nominative case is what is called for, even if it doesn't sound right to you. It probably doesn't sound right to you, because of widespread flouting of grammatical norms.

I summon you to join the fight against sloppy grammar; your posing of the question is your first skirmish in the war. Welcome, comrade-in-arms!

  • 1
    I think most English teachers nowadays would accept 'It's him' in all case except 'It was he who stole the money' and such. In any case, this is not 'flouting of grammatical norms' because 'It's he' falls far outside the norm of current speech. Linguists call processes in which irregularities are removed regularization, and it is found in (nearly?) every language. The predicate of 'to be' is re-analysed as an object in this construction.
    – Angelos
    Jul 11, 2016 at 11:29
  • @Nothing at all \\ With all due respect, I persist in my opinion. It doesn't fall outside "the norm of current speech" that I try to uphold. Jul 11, 2016 at 11:42
  • No one speaks for "English teachers". Some would hate it. Some wouldn't even notice it. Most English teachers are not native English speakers, and many don't speak the language well themselves. Many English teachers are native speakers with no formal training in either the language or teaching languages. So quit blaming "English teachers" for everything. As for "upholding norms", one does so by speaking and writing clearly and grammatically, setting an example. Norms are self-upholding and need no defense; English has gotten along for centuries in spite of norm-upholding. Jul 11, 2016 at 12:42
  • My "English teacher" was mostly a metaphor for any authority on correct usage. It was not long ago that "he" was not tolerated after "to be," and such error would merit in English class a point deduction on a paper. But maybe not now, at least in the US. Also, I have noticed that the New York Times peppers throughout its predicates the "he" after the "be," and "who" is everywhere. "Whom" is nearly nowhere, and nowhere also is "nor." I am okay with it, if that's where we are going. I wonder, though, if the language is "regularizing" in parallel in England.
    – R. Gold
    Jul 11, 2016 at 15:38
  • @R.Gold I think even fewer English teachers in the UK would reject the accusative after to be. Also, New York Times 'peppers'?
    – Angelos
    Jul 12, 2016 at 0:09

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