Grammar Moses: Is it it is I or is it it is me?

 
 
Updated 9/28/2019 5:09 PM

Ordinarily, I wouldn't get into a metaphysical debate here, but this one hits rather close to home.

"Maybe you can explain, or maybe find peculiar as I do, why the sentence 'It is I' is grammatically correct," reader Gib Van Dine wrote. "The subject is 'It,' the verb is 'is,' and the object is 'I.' But to me, 'I' is the subjective form of the word, while when it is the object the word is 'me.' In very common use is the response 'It's me,' which I think to be OK grammatically. And that, of course, is short for 'It is me.' Can you sort that out?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Were I conversing with anyone else, I might have thought the emailer had jumped the gun on the Jan. 1 start of recreational marijuana sales. How else could you explain such a fascination with so tiny a declaration?

But this is Gib, folks. Just an introspective guy who is no more high than I am. (You'll notice I didn't write "no higher than I am.")

To answer your question, Gib, the traditional answer is "It is I."

Why? When a pronoun follows a linking verb, such as "is" the pronoun should be in the subjective or nominative case. Who broke the lamp? "It is I (who broke the lamp.)" A linking verb is one that describes a state of being rather than an action.

My dad and I argue (most genteelly) about this on occasion. He takes the traditional course. For me (it's all about me), I tend to use the objective case "It is me." For some reason, that just feels right.

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But I was miserable with cases in high school. I remember getting a C in English one year (but that's more likely attributable to my flop sweat in speech.)

People much smarter than I (subjective case) concede that the use of "me" is so widespread that it's no longer worth quibbling over.

And I'm OK with that. When would "It is me" ever create confusion?

However, if you ever say, "Me and her are going to the store," I'm going to clean your mouth out with soap, so help "me."

Rampant verbizing

Rich Klicki, who is the editor of our Business Ledger, runs into a whole mess of jargon in his line of work,

"We have noticed an uptick in news releases on the use of the word 'office' as a verb," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

His example: "The family-owned commercial real estate firm, known for its mixed-use and retail developments, has officed in the Fulton Market building since 2016 and, as part of the relocation, will substantially expand its footprint to accommodate the corporate headquarters."

Ack!

And then there is the converse.

"I've always cringed at the use of 'spend' as a trendy replacement for 'expenses' or 'expenditures,'" wrote reader Rick Dana Barlow. "For example, 'The departmental budget includes a $450 million spend.'"

Word of the day

I learned a new word today, and to boot it's a homophone.

If you're like I am, you'll silently curse someone who writes "seperate" instead of "separate."

"There is no such word!" you'll bellow, fist raised to the heavens.

Well, I was inhaling deeply to bellow today when I read "immanent."

But I realized the context was weird, too.

If something is "imminent," it is about to happen.

If something is "immanent," it is inherent.

"Immanent" normally is used in a religious context. Because I have yet to cite a woman in this column, I give you eminent (aha!) 19th-century British women's rights activist Annie Besant: "God is immanent in every atom, all-pervading, all-sustaining; He is its source and its end, its cause and its object, its center and circumference; it is built on Him as its sure foundation, it breathes in Him as its encircling space, He is in everything and everything in Him."

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/managing editor of the Daily Herald. Write him at jbaumann@dailyherald.com. Put Grammar Moses in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.

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