Submitted by donnahansen on July 24, 2010

It is you who are/is ...

I was talking with someone via Facebook. I thought she was wrong, and she wrote back to me: “No, Donna, it is you who are wrong”. Had she left out the word “who” then I believe “are” would be correct, but since she included the word “who” then it changes to singular “you” which would require the word “is”. I believe it shoud read “No, Donna, it is you who is wrong”. Please help me on this grammatical issue.

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@Brus - I know it's perfectly correct, but "It is I who am wrong" is too formal for me and personally I prefer "It's me who's wrong".

If Swan is right (and he is THE authority in my field), then in the original question both are correct (as subject and object form of "you" are the same); it's simply a matter of formality. But I still prefer "is" when addressing one person.

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Oh no! Horrors! Did I write "It is me who ..." ? Too many beers. It is of course "It is I who am ..."

It (Subject) is (verb) I (complement, same case as subject, so "I" unless disjunctive "me" as in French "C'est moi"). "Who" introduces relative clause, antecedent "I" refers to 'me' so 'who' is singular, 'who' is the subject of its clause, and singular, and takes its number and gender from its antecedent, so is singular; so "who is .." can be the next bit. "It is I who is wrong." Something indeed sounds wrong.

'I'm the person who is responsible' is a cop-out.

I still like "It is I who am wrong." The subordinate clause verb then takes its person and number from the relative pronoun. I am uncertain if it is correct, however, as until this occasion I have never had occasion to use the expression.

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@Brus - It's a bit late in the day, but I'm with donnahansen and EngLove on this one. If the "you" being addressed is one person, "who" refers to a singular person and takes "is"; if the "you" refers to more than one person, them it takes "are". I absolutely agree with your analogy with "It's me who ...", but with the opposite conclusion. As you yourself said earlier, "It's me who am (eg responsible for...)", doesn't sound right. And that's because nobody'd say it. "It's me who is (responsible for ...)" is the grammatically natural statement. Checking through Google books with Ngram shows absolutely no examples of "It is me who am" or "it's me who am", while finding a reasonable number of examples for the "is" variety. But I'm rather surprised you don't hear that "It's me who am ..." is ungrammatical, as you hinted at earlier.

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=It...

In Practical English Usage, Michael Swan gives two possibilities for the "me" type:

It is I who am responsible (formal)
It is me that's responsible (informal) (that and who are interchangeable - WW)

And recommends a possible middle way - I'm the person who is responsible.

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You say it should be "It's you who is wrong" but I disagree: I would say "It is you who are wrong", and this is why:

You say the word "who" refers to the subject "you", but inherits only the number (singular or plural) of the subject. "You" here is the antecedent, which is then represented by "who". So "is" depends on "who" = "you", so 'you ... who ... are ...'.

You say that 'in this sense you can consider the phrase "who is wrong" as a (complex?) clause'. It is a clause, yes (not a phrase, which would not include a verb; this clause does) and there is nothing complex about it; it is a relative clause in which the relative pronoun 'who' relates/refers (from the Latin 'refero, referre, retuli, relatum' = to carry back) to its antecedent ("lying before") 'you'.

So therefore: I ... who ... am, you ... who ... are, he/she ... who ...is, we ... who ... are, and so on.

So when you say ' you wouldn't say "It's I who am wrong." ', I say I would, for it is correct. This time it is you who are wrong, I am afraid.

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It should be "It's you who is wrong". The word "who" refers to the subject "you", but inherits only the number (singular or plural) of the subject. Then "is" depends on "who". In this sense you can consider the phrase "who is wrong" as a (complex?) clause.

For instance, you wouldn't say "It's I who am wrong."

But curiously enough, with this construction you can actually distinguish between a singular "you" and a plural "you". How nifty! :)

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"Who would of thought" ...? "Would of" !!?

"Who would have thought he would become ...". Yes, third person. No I, you or we about it. Just he (or she).

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Who would of thought, he would have become such an evil man? <--- could that sentence be considered third person?

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i fuck who you are....can you please correct it.
do not laugh at me,because it is like you request. hehehe

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Does 'who' refer to "it" or to "you"? It is, you are. You are so right! Actually, I like 'It is you who are wrong.'

Are we being awfully pedantic here?

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But Brus, it is you who is wrong

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No, someone has purloined my identity. The last three messages are not from me, and are also very silly.

If the purpose of this operation is to help people including those for whom English is a second language it is a pity to be silly and even more of a pity to do so dishonestly.If anyone is overseeing this correspondence please see the email of these last three must be different.

I am not amused.

Brus

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It is I who eats ...; it is they who drink ...; it is we who am.

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It is we who am ...; it is you who art ...; it is she who am ...

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It is you who am ...; it is I who are ...; It is he who art

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It is I who am ...; it is you who are ....; It is he who is ...

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It is I who am ...; it is you who are ....; It is he who is ...

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It is I who work. = I work. Who relates to I.

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nealwhitman,

Can you help me find the resource where "It is I who works." is correct?
Thanks!

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"C'est moi", rather than "C'est je." The grammatical explanation is that
"moi" is used here disjunctively, as "ce" is the subject, so "je" is the complement rather than the subject. "Me" and "us" are the English disjunctive versions: "it's me", it's us". "It" is the impersonal subject, "me" and "us" the complements.
A bit more on this: the disjunctive is where there is no further verb attached to "moi" or "me", etc. When there is another clause: eg "It is me who is wrong"/"It is I who am wrong"/ "It is me who am wrong" "It is me who is" - "is" here governed by "who" which in turn may refer to either "It" or "I/me". In French where the persons of verb, and their tenses, are much more clear: "It is we who were wrong" would certainly be "C'est nous qui nous sommes trompes", and "nous" here is disjunctive, as proved by "moi" if it were "c'est moi qui me suis trompe". Now that is an argument for saying that "It's me who am...". But it doesn't sound right, does it?

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It is, you are, who is, who are. "It is" singular because 'is' relates to the subject "it". It is you who are...: "you who are" is correct because 'are' relates to the subject "who" which is the subject of the relative clause "who are...", which in turn relates to its antecedent "you", so as the relative pronoun "who" derives its number from the antecedent, 'who are' replaces or represents "you are", just "It is I who am correct...".

"It is I" when answering a knock on the door or a call from a window is pedantic and would give the speaker's identity away immediately! The excuse for saying "It is me" or "It's me" is provided by the French, who look after their language with much more care than we do ours. "C'est moi", rather than "C'est je." The grammatical explanation is that
"moi" is used here disjunctively, as "ce" is the subject, so "je" is the complement rather than the subject. "Me" and "us" are the English disjunctive versions: "it's me", it's us". "It" is the impersonal subject, "me" and "us" the complements.

The yolk of eggs is not white. Nor are the yolks of eggs. Singular subject "is", plural subject "are", yolks yellow.

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U r all wrong the correct answer is you just WRONG

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Uh.. I think you're confusing yourself, Donna.

Does Donna change in numbers? You has always been singular. In English, there is no distinction in the word or spelling of 'you', to determine whether it's singular or plural. In this case, we already know who 'you' is referring to: Donna. So, whether it's having the 'who' or not, it's always singular. And, saying 'you are' doesn't make you more of yourself! That is just the rule for whenever you use 'you'.

The correct way is 'you who is wrong'. Unless it's like, 'You, who is the ruler of all the people of Nalatan, are wrong'. But, just having 'who', turns it into a pronoun for the concept of 'you' (it's called relative pronoun), which is referring to Donna. Therefore, it is 'is'.

A good way to remember this is replacing is or are with something else. Like, 'you who was wrong'. Being a native speaker, I can immediately tell by changing it into past tense that 'who was wrong' sounds right. 'you who were wrong' would definitely change the meaning, rather, to plural, not singular.

Also, if you're a native speaker, you would immediately imagine like some medieval story with a silly line 'It is I, the great...' or 'it is you who are'.. all of a sudden, you realise that in those days people referred to a single person in a plural form when you give them more respect. Even adversaries would you use 'you'-plural, because - well, yeah, exactly, they're their adversaries; they would most likely be as great of a success as that person is - and, because of the whole chivalrous thing. And so, if someone says 'you who are..' just take it as a compliment.

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Interesting...

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An old but informative article on "clefts" (the linguistic term for this kind of sentence) is AKMAJIAN, ADRIAN. 1970. On deriving cleft sentences from pseudo-cleft sentences. Linguistic Inquiry 1.149-168.

Akmajian actually gives data from three dialects that he identifies, which differ in whether the focus must be accusative, and in whether the verb in the cleft clause need agree only in number, or in both number and person. That is, some speakers say, "It is I who do it"; others say, "It is I who does it"; and still others say, "It is me who does it." If I recall correctly, if the speakers use the accusative form, then the verb following "who" is always third-person singular. That is, no one says, *"It is me who do it."

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Very common mistake. I hear many people who speak English as a first language make it all the time.

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When you knock at the door do you say "it's me" or "it is I" ?

Do you say the yolk of an egg IS white or the yolk of an egg ARE white?

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Donna, it's you who are wrong. The word "who" is not inherently third-person singular; it takes its person and number from the noun it's referring to. It can be singular or plural, and first person, third person, or (as in your case) second person.

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The pronoun "you" always takes a plural verb, even when the object is singular, as in your example.

Leave out the "who" and you'd have either "you are wrong" or "you is wrong". "Who," in your example, modifies "you." It's neither the subject ("you" is the subject--and there's an example of an exception to the rule I stated initially, but that's because what I'm really saying is "The word {fill in the blank} is the subject") nor the object of the verb "to be."

Hope this helps!

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