Jean Chickened Out

The other day someone asked me if the rule about predicate nominatives still holds. I told her that it didn’t.

But later that day – when I had a chance to stand up for my position – I backed down. Or chickened out.

Call me a coward if you must. Sometimes our complicated language gives us no choice.

Here’s what I’m talking about. There’s a rule in English that you have to use the subjective case with the verb to be. In plain English, you’re supposed to write sentences like these:

It was he. This is she. The person you want is I.

To which I say: Phooey. I refuse to do it. Those sentences sound weird. Here are my versions:

It was him. This is her. The person you want is me.

The French (sticklers about grammar) say “It’s me” (C’est moi). If it’s good enough for the French, it’s good enough for me.

But later that same day I sent an email that needed an “It was she” sentence. I was afraid to write “It was her.” (Maybe the person reading my email was educated by nuns and would notice that I’d broken the rule about predicate nominatives. Couldn’t take that chance!)

I rewrote the sentence to bypass the whole issue: “She, not Harry, is the one who can help you.”

If you’re looking for someone who consistently stands up for what she believes, it’s not me. Sorry about that!

A brown hen isolated on white background.


4 thoughts on “Jean Chickened Out

  1. William Vietinghoff

    Jean, all the points you made in this write-up can be defended. You provide a great service to people who only know rigid rules about grammar. I think your message is the principle I work to: “Are the words written understandable?”

  2. Janis Koike

    My Aunt Ida Rose was a writer and a stickler for good grammar.

    She once remarked . . . If you look at photograph and exclaim, “Wow, that is I!” . . . the listener will be looking at you and not at the photograph.

  3. ballroomdancer Post author

    Your Aunt Ida Rose was a smart woman!
    I had an Aunt Idea too!
    The point about “looking at you and not at the photograph” is marvelous. Thanks!

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