“‘It’s I’ or ‘it’s me’?” asked James Worrell, of Oklahoma City.
Good question, James.
If you were to ask Miss Prunella Pincenez, Buck’s eighth-grade English teacher, she would tell you “It is I,” in a heartbeat.
Yet, respected English usage authorities will tell you that “it is me” is perfectly acceptable. Queen Elizabeth II, presumably an authority on the Queen’s English, has used “It’s me.” So did Sir Winston Churchill, who was credited with marshaling the English language and sending it off to war.
If you’re a stickler for formal rules, Miss Prunella is correct. “Is” is part of the verb “to be,” which is a copulative verb (the prim lady prefers to say “linking verb”). Traditional grammarians will tell you that “I” is a predicate nominative, the same person indicated by the subject “it.” As a nominative, the pronoun has to be in the nominative case — which means “I.”
But many usage authorities beg to differ.
As the Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage notes, “The accepted colloquial idiom favors ‘it’s me.’”
The reference work observes: “Purists and perfectionists in language carefully say, ‘It is I’ and ‘It is he.’ These forms, however, strike many ears today as needlessly stilted and affected.”
So your choice of “I” or “me” will depend on whether you want to sound like regular folks or like a super-correct intellectual. The English language is pretty forgiving of writers and speakers who take the colloquial route, and there’s no grammar court to send you to jail for it and no inquisition to send you to hell.
“If you hear ‘It is I,’” said Gopher, “you’ll know it ain’t me.”
Send questions for Buck to BucksEnglish@AOL.com. Please let Buck know what town you’re from. For other writing by Gene Owens, go to www.wadesdixieco.com.