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maestrowork
03-19-2006, 10:45 AM
Which one is correct?


It was I who killed the cat.

It was me who killed the cat.

and...

It was I whom he punched.

It was me whom he punched.

Danger Jane
03-19-2006, 11:03 AM
"It was I..." because was takes no direct object. Linking verb. Like when you answer the phone: "This is s/he."

maestrowork
03-19-2006, 11:27 AM
But in speech we hear this:

"Who broke that glass?"
"Sorry, it was me."

katee
03-19-2006, 11:52 AM
My vote's for "me" because when I say the two sentences aloud, that's the one that sounds better, though I have no grammatical explanation other than that.

Methinks it's time to open my grammar book again.

reph
03-19-2006, 12:27 PM
It was I who killed the cat.

It was I whom he punched.


I hope he punched you good and hard if you killed the cat.

Meow.

Jamesaritchie
03-19-2006, 05:34 PM
Which one is correct?


It was I who killed the cat.

It was me who killed the cat.

and...

It was I whom he punched.

It was me whom he punched.




I killed the cat.

He punched me.

Jamesaritchie
03-19-2006, 05:38 PM
But in speech we hear this:

"Who broke that glass?"
"Sorry, it was me."

Depends who's speaking. We should hear, "Sorry, I did."

I like the word "was," but this thread shows the danger it can bring to a sentence.

Maryn
03-19-2006, 06:40 PM
There's correct and there's the way most people speak in casual circumstance. I only know this one because of Latin--a worthy language for study because it helps so very much with one's English. (Not that I remember much Latin, of course, but I've still got most of what it taught me about English.)

In Latin, the object of a verb which is a state of being, as opposed to an action, uses nominative case (the same as its use as a subject).

It was he who killed the cat.
This is she speaking. (<--for which my mom took grief on a zillion phone calls)
It is I, home at last. (As opposed to, "Lucy, honey, I'm ho-o-ome!")

So for formal writing, that's what's correct, nominative--the same word you'd use if it was the subject of the sentence. However, in casual exposition and most dialogue, most speakers (other than my mom) tend to use Latin's accusative case--the word you'd use as a direct object.

It was him who killed the cat.
This is her. (<--Reality check: "This is Maryn." Or, "Who wants to know?" Or, "She's not here. May I take a message?" because I just don't like phone calls.)
It's me, home at last.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd say less than ten percent of my writing is formal enough, or has characters who speak formally enough, to use what I know is technically correct.

Maryn, who liked Latin

Bufty
03-19-2006, 08:59 PM
If the character is a University Lecturer in English (or posseses a similar educational standard) then I guess he would speak with perfect grammar construction. Otherwise, no problem so long as it is clear what the character is saying and it's the way that character would speak.
That said, I do appreciate this Thread is concerned with the use of technically correct grammar.

kristie911
03-19-2006, 10:50 PM
I killed the cat.

He punched me.

My thoughts exactly!

Tish Davidson
03-20-2006, 02:49 AM
Which one is correct?

It was I who killed the cat.

It was I whom he punched.



I was taught to consider carefully the use of any sentence beginning with It is, It was, There are, or There is because these are generally weak contructions. In most cases the sentence can be re-written using fewer words and stronger verbs and I've found this has improved my writing.

There are six birds sitting on the wire.

Six birds are sitting on the wire.

It is a cold and blustery day.
The day is cold and blustery.

Maryn
03-20-2006, 07:27 AM
I can't disagree, Tish, that "It is" and "There are" can be weak sentence structures. But they're not wrong per se, and sometimes they do the job just fine. Every now and then I find some sentence that's awkward no matter how I reword it but works all right as a "There was." In those cases, I leave it alone.

I do search for those in a final editing pass, though, to make sure I changed the ones that I can.

Maryn, who knows a limerick that starts with "There once was a girl from Nantucket"

maestrowork
03-20-2006, 08:31 AM
We're a little off track here; but I suppose the question on grammar has been answered. No? That "I" is the right word, and not "me" even though the latter is generally accepted in dialogue and informal writing.


Anyway, I agree that the direct approach is better in writing: I killed the cat. He punched me.

But the "be" words are not evil, per se. There are times when they are better choices. Even literary giants such as Updike or Irvin or Chabon use them all the time. For example, there are times when the "I" is more important than the act itself.

They blamed her, but I killed the cat.

It might be arguably better if we write:

They blamed her, but it was I who killed the cat.

Obviously, we can write it many different, better ways, such as:

They blamed her, but I was the one who killed the cat.

They blamed her, but they should have blamed me instead; I killed the cat.

She didn't kill the cat; I did.

etc. etc.

The point is, the emphasis is not on "killed the cat" but on "I."

katee
03-20-2006, 01:45 PM
The point is, the emphasis is not on "killed the cat" but on "I."

Emphasis on what was done, or who was doing something, is - I believe - the whole reason why we can say the same concept different ways, eg by using the passive voice ("the song was sung") or by using clefted sentences ("it was the girl who sung the song").

So I think it's important to tinker with sentences this way, and to explore the ways that different grammatical structures affect the same concept.

katee
03-20-2006, 01:49 PM
There's correct and there's the way most people speak in casual circumstance. I only know this one because of Latin--a worthy language for study because it helps so very much with one's English. (Not that I remember much Latin, of course, but I've still got most of what it taught me about English.)
The problem with basing English grammar on Latin is that English isn't a Romance (ie Latin-based) language - it's a Germanic language. While they're both Indo-European languages, they're not as related as people generally seem to think.

Basing English grammar rules on Latin is what led to the abhorrent rule "do not split infinitives", which is impossible in Latin as infinitives are one word, but eminently possible in English, in which they're two.

But I agree with the study of Latin being beneficial for one's English - in fact, the study of any language is A Good Thing.

Jamesaritchie
03-20-2006, 08:19 PM
We're a little off track here; but I suppose the question on grammar has been answered. No? That "I" is the right word, and not "me" even though the latter is generally accepted in dialogue and informal writing.


Anyway, I agree that the direct approach is better in writing: I killed the cat. He punched me.

But the "be" words are not evil, per se. There are times when they are better choices. Even literary giants such as Updike or Irvin or Chabon use them all the time. For example, there are times when the "I" is more important than the act itself.

They blamed her, but I killed the cat.

It might be arguably better if we write:

They blamed her, but it was I who killed the cat.

Obviously, we can write it many different, better ways, such as:

They blamed her, but I was the one who killed the cat.

They blamed her, but they should have blamed me instead; I killed the cat.

She didn't kill the cat; I did.

etc. etc.

The point is, the emphasis is not on "killed the cat" but on "I."

"Me" should only be used in dialogue if you're trying to show that the character is someone illiterate, and it shuold never, ever be used in informal writing. "Informal" does not mean lousy grammar, and that's lousy grammar. The point of simply saying "I killed the cat" is that it's dead on track. If "I killed the cat" is correct, then "It was I" is also correct.

And the emphais is on the act, AND on who committed the act.

But whether used in dialogue or informal writing, "me" is always incorrect, and always shows illiteracy.

Jamesaritchie
03-20-2006, 08:20 PM
Latin does give us the lousy "never split an infinitive" rule, but even this rule should be followed a good deal of the time. Never splitting an infinitive leads to bad writng, but so does always splitting infinitives. Some should be split, some should be left in one piece.

And Latin is the base language of any good writer.

maestrowork
03-20-2006, 11:32 PM
Further confusion:


- Is it me or is that message offensive?

Is "me" correct? If so, why is "It's me" not correct?

reph
03-21-2006, 12:17 AM
"Is it me, or is that message offensive?"

"Me" is incorrect. "I" is correct.

When would you want to say "Is it I, or is that message offensive?" Only when you were writing dialogue for an improbably pedantic character or someone who learned English from grammar books and never heard it spoken.

Jamesaritchie
03-21-2006, 12:47 AM
Further confusion:


- Is it me or is that message offensive?

Is "me" correct? If so, why is "It's me" not correct?

"Me" is correct in casual dialogue only because it sounds better. But it's still poor grammar. But whether it's "I" or "me," the response most often received from the question "Is it me, or is that message offensive" will be "It's you."

The trouble with this wording, and one reason it pays not to go too firnly with how things are said, is that the question seems to be asking "Is it me that's offensive, or is it the message that's offensive?"

Pretty much every last time I hear anyone use such phrasing these days, the answer always comes back, "it's you." Most have caught on to how such wording sounds, and using it is something I'd avoid.

Be that as it, you know, informal writing is a style, not an excuse for poor grammar.

PastMidnight
03-21-2006, 03:35 AM
The trouble with this wording, and one reason it pays not to go too firnly with how things are said, is that the question seems to be asking "Is it me that's offensive, or is it the message that's offensive?"


That's not how I interpreted this question. I assume that the speaker is asking something along the lines of, "Am I the only one who thinks the message is offensive?", like one would say, "Is it me, or does this milk taste funny?"

pianoman5
03-21-2006, 05:22 AM
That's not how I interpreted this question. I assume that the speaker is asking something along the lines of, "Am I the only one who thinks the message is offensive?", like one would say, "Is it me, or does this milk taste funny?"

Exactly. This particular usage is not a question of grammar, it's an example of vernacular shorthand. "Is it me?" means, by common consent of native English speakers, "Am I alone in this, or do the rest of you think...?"

It would be interesting to see how translators deal with this kind of thing when rendering such expressions into other languages.