Submitted by sue on March 6, 2006

“It is I” vs. “It is me”

Which of the following is correct?

It is I. It is me.

A grammar teacher mentioned to me something about the nominative case being used after the verb “to be” and not the usual objective case (”me”) that I thought it should be. He said the verb “to be” was an exception, but I can’t find anywhere that this is written down as such. Anyone any thoughts?

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What does correct mean? Long ago when I was young, the rule was that the verb to be takes no object - there is a grammatical logic to it. However, people commonly say "it is me" and that form is now 'correct' by usage.

When living in Denmark and learning Danish at school, my teacher corrected me for saying "det er jeg" - in Danish, "it is I" is consider *wrong*, and I should have said "det er mig"!

Right and wrong are just notions...

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Your grammar teacher is right. Yeah I know, it sounds funny to knock on you're friend's door and when they ask "who is it?" you answer "it's I." But "to be" is not a transitive verb. In fact, the funny properties of "to be" are highlighted by the fact that many languages (Hebrew, Russian, Arabic...) don't even have such a verb in the present tense. In those languages, you would literally say "it I" (it would not make sense to say in Russian "eto menya," see www.painintherussian.com). Not only is "to be" a funny verb, but English makes very funny use of its case system. Back in the day (c. 600 AD) when English's case system was more important in English grammar than it is today, transitive verbs sometimes took the genetive (i.e., "drincan wines," to drink of wine), and the application of the accusative, dative, and instrumental cases was virtually arbitrary. Given that kind of historical background for English cases, it isn't surprising that a given verb will take a case that does not necessarilly make sense (in this instance, nominative for "to be").

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Have to agree... there's correct and correct. Grammatically correct "It is I" sounds stilted most of the time. I knock on Mom's door, she shouts to see who it is (cause it might not be worth climbing out of the easy chair for just anybody), I shout back "It's me." Call my brother on the phone, leave message "It's just me, call me back" which strongly presumes that after 45+ years he is able to identify this ME from the voice. Etc., etc. I am pretty darn much a stickler for proper grammar, but I am lax on this one.

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How about:
It is I who knocked on the door
but
It is me you are looking for.
?

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I think it must be noted that usually, when speaking, you do not use proper english all the time, it is just the way we work, we prefer to use aurally pleasing sentences rather than grammatically correct sentences (in the most part). Accordingly, many people use the phrase "It's me" because it is easier to say and slightly more pleasing to the ear.

However, for dramatic effect, to be grammatically correct and to sound impressive and imposing, you can use "It is I" I definately enjoy using it when going into my partner's room, it just has a feeling of... savvy.

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I did a little research and this is what I came up with. Gee, you learn something new every day. The verb "to be" is a copulative verb, not a transitive verb. As such, it connects two noun phrases of the same case. "To be" isn't necessarily followed by the nominative case, but rather, the case before and after the "to be" must match. Now, here's where I think it gets interesting. "It" can be either nominative or
accusative. It really depends on the rest of the sentence. Irina's post below is a perfect example of this. If there is no "rest of the sentence", then I would think either could be correct. I vaguely recall learning in gradeschool that either was ok.

for more on this see:

http://www.alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxits...

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Technically, "It is I." is correct. However, it's so rarely used that it sounds stilted, pedantic and unnatural. Same with "Not I."

"It's me" is so overwhelmingly used that from a descriptive or functional standpoint, it's the preferred way.

In formal writing I would try to avoid the entire issue and find some other way of expressing the idea.

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Nicholas Sanders is on the right track. The notion of which is "correct" in English was formed largely by people who considered Latin to be the perfect language and that its grammar should inform English grammar, even tho English grammar is morely closely related to Old Norse (as Danish is). So the tortured explanations of case and special conjugation are ways of explaining what people *thought* should be right (to make English conform to Latin) rather than the *actual* way common folk ever spoke.

Consider:
It hit me.
It beat me.
It surprised me.
It puzzled me.
It is I.

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English has also been influenced by the French. The French also make an exception, saying "c'est moi": It's me. The French use this construction only in the first person singular. Thus "It's me" is correct, yet "It's him" is less preferred that "It's he".

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Strange, although German and Danish are in the same family, the rule is switched. "Das bin ich" ("It is I") is the only way to say the utterance in question in German. "Das ist mich" would probably just get you heavily scolded for not speaking properly.

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hey "it is i" is correct ---nominatice case

but while talking we use "it is me"

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Bill is right in saying that the French make the same exception, but I'm not sure why he thinks that it applies only in the first person singular - it's true of all of them. What you're using is the strong pronoun, which also follows prepositions etc. Thus they say 'C'est lui' for the third person singular (masc), conforming to the rule.

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"It is I" is the way to go. I know that we, as the public, like to butcher the English language in speech. Thus, we should find our ignorance an impetus to embetter ourselves. We must speak correctly!

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Prashant, why do you not capitalize 'I'? I wish you would; but, Kurt, I agree. Is it just people like we who will follow these rules? Yes. Will we try to persuade others? Yes. Will we be successful? No.

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Prachi, the correct expression is "like us" or "such as we." "Like" is a preposition (and only a preposition), and it takes an objective pronoun. I personally prefer when people use an objective pronoun in the wrong place than a subjective pronoun in the wrong place. But that's just me.... Oh, did I just go full circle?

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Kudos to Tysto for such a concise insight into the whole Latinophile prescriptive grammarian scene. I'd just like to add a comment from the perspective of functional (e.g. 'practical') grammarians;

It in the construction "It's me" (as you will find it most of the time in actual speech) is not a subject as we understand the term. Rather, "It" in this context, and "There" in many contexts is what functional grammar refers to as a "dummy subject"- since in a construction like "It's raining", or "There's no snow today" the 'subject' position is being held by these 'placeholders'; the real central meaning is "rain" and "no snow today" since there is no 'it' or 'there' we can substantiate.

All of which brings about a fundamental philosophical problem with the 'copulative' in the first place (not to mention a silly name like that!), e.g., such statements as "I think therefore I am" can be considered more tautological than logical; and more seriously, to say something "is blue" is just a kind of shorthand for "appears blue to me" , since the color spectrum is not divided equally among all languages, not just because we can't fundamentally trust the senses. Partly this is also because the copula in English is doing double-duty as an 'existential' verb.

This is really splitting stubble to go this deep of course, and if you need any proof of how far off the deep end it really can get, there is even a society and a movement called E-prime(mostly high school teachers, it appears) whose sworn goal is to abolish the generic copula. Makes for fascinating T-shirts but for that we already have Asian English ;)
for more about E-prime: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-Prime

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This can easily get into a long-winded dissertation on registration in language. The example is problematic in that it is an utterance that is endemic to a social environment where informal register would be expected.
A locution is considered "acceptable" in informal register if it is strongly embedded in the local speech culture. For example, the other night my wife said, "I don't feel very good; I'm going to go lay down for a few minutes". This has two grammatical flaws: using an adjective where an adverb is required, and using a transitive verb intransitively. Nonetheless, it passes acceptability muster for informal register because such utterances have widespread circulation among native speakers of English. By this logic, not only is "that's me" acceptable, but also "that would be me" (strange, but common among the young), "yo, dude...over here!" and any manner of other idiomatic replies.
Formal register is more highly codified and has a different standard of acceptability based on conformation to rules and conventions. Do you need to use it?
The important thing is to master REGISTER SHIFTING: knowing when the social venue in which you are communicating requires formal register and when it doesn't. If teaching a class in first aid, I'm sure my wife would say something along the lines of "if the patient isn't feeling well, have him lie down...". Because she would be addressing members of the public, formal register would be more appropriate. The whole idea of formality, though -- in manners, in clothing, in personal deportment, in speech -- is breaking down. We're an informal generation. Personally, though...I think there's a big difference between being fluent in both registers and choosing to be informal, and being chronically informal because you never learned the conventions of formal register. One should know that "It is I" is grammatical. Whether or not you actually speak that way is up to you.

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Does this apply to all copula verbs? So correct usage dictates "I smell I" not "I smell me"?

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Matthew, "smell" is not copular when used as a transitive verb. In "I smell bad", smell is copular. In "I smell flowers", it is not. Many copulative verbs are not always copular depending on usage.

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Interesting to note, you may hear "it is I", but rarely hear "it's I". You also hear "it's me" more frequently than "it is me". If both are "correct", Clearly "I" is more formal.

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If "it's I" is "grammatically correct," but everyone says "it's me" because it's more natural and sounds better (as people here have suggested, then what is the point of "grammar"? We have a problem if we think something that we hardly ever say is correct, and something we say all the time is wrong.

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Wostow nought wel that it am I, Pandare?

Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, Book 1, line 588

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For such a language-sensitive group, it's distracting to me to read otherwise impeccable posts that place periods and commas outside of closing quotation marks. Except in the case of parenthetical references, the rule is "Always Inside." Punctuation is as important as grammar and usage for clear communication.

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Actually the British convention is to place punctuation outside if it is not part of the quoted phrase.

Personally I don't think communication is impeded either way.

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Oh my goodness...Folks, it's called a predicate nominative, and in the sentence, "It is I," there are two of them. "It" is a subject, and "I" is a subject. They are set equal to each other with the verb "to be." In the olden days people would say, "It is I, King Walrus of the Southwood..." Remember Shakespeare? Well, I don't remember Shakespeare, but I DO KNOW THAT "It is I" IS CORRECT.

Porsche, you don't know what you're talking about. I'm sorry. Please don't pass off statements as facts when you don't have anything to back it up. "Both are correct, but 'It is I' is more formal." That's what you said, and you deserve a slap upside the head. Though acceptable when used colloquially, "It is me" is not grammatically correct.

Here's what someone else wrote:

How about:
It is I who knocked on the door
but
It is me you are looking for.
?

If I knew your seventh-grade English teacher, I'd slap her upside the head, too. In the latter sentence, "it" is the subject, and "me" is the object of the preposition "for," and thus takes the accusative case. In the former sentence, both "it" and "I" are subjects in the clause "It is I." If anyone disagrees with me, would like to yell at me, or slap me upside the head, please holler back and I'd be glad to shoot down your protests.

I am angry.

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Kyle,
The prescription that nominative pronouns must be used after the copula began in the 18th century. As far as I can tell, it was based on an analogy with Latin or a misguided concern about "logic".

http://www.bartleby.com/185/41.html
Marlowe used “is it him you seek?”, “’tis her I esteem” and “nor thee nor them shall want”; Fletcher used “’tis her I admire”; Shakespeare himself used “that’s me.”

Instead of trying to apply an irrelevant argument about subject and object, look at the facts. The fact is that people use the object pronouns after the copula. This is normal English.

Would you say "The winner was I" or "The winner was me"? I would never say the former. It sounds strange to me. As a native speaker of English, I'm trusting my intuition on this.

If we follow the prescription that we must use nominative (or subject) case after "be", we get ridiculous things like this:

"Here's a photo of my old hockey team."
"Which one of these players is you?"
(pointing) "Oh, that's I."

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OK, my examples from Marlowe and Fletcher are usages that Kyle would say are correct, so they are irrelevant here.

Kyle, your definition of "grammatically correct" is ignoring the facts. And what is the point of a grammar that ignores how language is used? Bismarck's post above on registers is also worth reading.

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Curiously, in the primary Latin language (Italian I would guess) "it's me" does not exist. It's always "it is I" which, translated in Italian becomes "SONO IO"

Piero

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Kyle, apparently, you aren't a very careful or attentive reader:
1 - I haven't passed anything off as fact.
2 - I have provided back up.
3 - You have also misquoted me.

You might find this interesting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disputed_English_g...

I think you might be one of the angry English speakers described therein, although I think I would prefer mad to angry in this case.

You are obviously an extreme prescriptivist. Hey, fine by me. I tend to lean that way myself, But to assert that yours is the only point of view, especially when it is an unpopular one on a controversial subject is rather myopic, and just seems ignorant and dogmatic. Such hostility. I'm guessing you were slapped upside the head once too often yourself (or perhaps not often enough).

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I wanted to know the differencce between the use of the words "find" and "think". For example:

A) Do you "think" driving in Paris dangerous?

B) Do you find driving in Paris dangerous?

What is the difference in using either word in each sentence? I know that in the first sentence the verb "is" should be after Paris.

I think that both sentences have the same meaning, but just two different ways to say the same thing. Is one more an American phrase versus the other a more UK phrase?

thank you for your time.

LB

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They mean almost the same thing, but there is a subtle difference. In the examples you gave, I would say that "think" implies you are seeking someone's opinion, Whereas "find" has as sense of realization or discovery about it. In particular, in order to "find driving in Paris", you actually have to go to Paris and drive first, but you can have opinions or thoughts about driving there without ever having been there.

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I'm not an English language historian, but it is true that languages like German mandate that the nominative case be used with "to be" and not accusative, and historically that's probably what english used. But then again, German still has a (now partially deconstructed) real, functional case system, and has different rules governing usages such as the accusative vs the dative, case inflection of things like adjectives, and so on. Having a rule mandating the use of nominative with "to be" doesn't seem out of place in such a system.

Today's English is a different story. Most of the aforementioned case system was razed, with only a genitive case left (and a regular one, even). Languages like French have gone though a similar developement: Classical Latin had many irregularities in it's case system, which led to people treating the case "as is" rather than "actively". Of course, the next thing that happened was that phonetic changes set in, hitting unaccented syllabes left and right. Since the case endings were such unaccented syllabes, they were of course hit hard by those phonetic changes, leading to the demise of the Latin case system. Pronouns, being extremely common words, kept their case distinctions.

English's new system is based on word order and prepositions: the subject goes in front of the verb, the object goes behind it, and other noun groups get a preposition and usually end up at the end of the sentence. The verb ends up between the two, thus separating them and making their role in the sentence clear. You can find similar systems in languages like Chinese (which has even less case than English, pronouns staying always the same, verbs serving as prepositions and possessives being in fact relative clauses).

Thus, depending on which type of grammar you use, you'll arrive at either "It's I" or "It's me". With case system grammar, "to be" can mandate having both parts in nominative case, under the reasoning that they are the same object you're talking about. But in a position and preposition system, sentence order is a strong organizing force, and it becomes hard to divorce which case gets used for the pronoun from it's position in the sentece: the subject is in front of the verb and you use I, he, we, they; the object goes after the verb, and there you use me, him, us, them. While in Latin, sentence ordering has a relatively weak weight, English is exactly the other way around, case being mostly dead and sentence order reigning supreme. Thus, the rule of "to be" being a copulative verb and requiring nominative just doesn't have enough weight and is litterally crushed by the of the new rule of "It's after the verb, it's an object". A sentence like "It's I" requires violations not only one, but two extremely strong rules of such a system: not only does it place a nominative in the position for the object, but it also tries to make a sentence with two subjects, something which would be quite a heresy in english's system!

Thus, given how the rest of English grammar works, it's absolutely not surprising that something like "It's me" has sprung up and is now much, much more common than "It's I". No amount of arguing about nominative and accusative cases will change the fact that 99.9% of the time, when people speak (including very intelligent and cultivated people), people say "It's me". Because of that very fact, "It's me" is the de facto standard way of saying it, and cannot be "wrong" in any way.

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Just one comment about the French usage.

The moi in c'est moi is not a direct object or nomnative pronoun. It is an emphatic pronoun. If the French were using the direct object pronoun then the pharse would be ce m'est which of course it isn't.

There is, however, a limit to using foreign language to sort out usage in our own language. We don't insert the direct object pronoun in front of the verb as the French do (Je t'adore.) Standard English use double negatives as the French do (Rien n'est simple.)

It was 17th century grammarians using Latin as a guide that has given us the abmysmal notions that you may not split infinitives and no sentence can ever be terminated with a preposition.

<i>It's me</i> is just fine for informal writing and speaking. But when we are using language in a more formal way and setting, then we need to throw a nod to the prescriptive grammarians because educated speakers know the "correct" form is is "It is I" and will assume that you don't.

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OF COURSE "It is I" IS CORRECT! None of the other possibilities work for me. I'm annoyed by nonuse of the subjunctive. If everyone were saying, "It is I," then I would be pleased.


I AM NOT PLEASED! Stop your "It's me"'s!!!!!!

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OF COURSE "It is I" IS CORRECT! None of the other possibilities work for me. I'm annoyed by nonuse of the subjunctive. If everyone were saying, "It is I," then I would be pleased.


I AM NOT PLEASED! Stop your "It's me"'s!!!!!!

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"It is I" always NOW! Duh.

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Here's the bottom excerpt of what someone else wrote:

If I knew your seventh-grade English teacher, I'd slap her upside the head, too. In the latter sentence, "it" is the subject, and "me" is the object of the preposition "for," and thus takes the accusative case. In the former sentence, both "it" and "I" are subjects in the clause "It is I." If anyone disagrees with me, would like to yell at me, or slap me upside the head, please holler back and I'd be glad to shoot down your protests.

It is I for whom you are looking.

No prepositions at the end of a sentence. Also, pleas note THAT "It is I" IS CORRECT. Also, SO TOO IS "It's I" CORRECT!

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Here's what I just wrote:

Here's the bottom excerpt of what someone else wrote:

If I knew your seventh-grade English teacher, I'd slap her upside the head, too. In the latter sentence, "it" is the subject, and "me" is the object of the preposition "for," and thus takes the accusative case. In the former sentence, both "it" and "I" are subjects in the clause "It is I." If anyone disagrees with me, would like to yell at me, or slap me upside the head, please holler back and I'd be glad to shoot down your protests.

It is I for whom you are looking.

No prepositions at the end of a sentence. Also, pleas note THAT "It is I" IS CORRECT. Also, SO TOO IS "It's I" CORRECT!

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please check out the "Me Versus I" post.

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Hey David, what is wrong with you? every time you make a post, you add ANOTHER post that starts with:

"Here's what I just wrote:"

then you repeat the exact same thing as what you just posted. Everyone can see what you posted. You don't have to tell everyone "what you just wrote." We saw it the first time. Posting it TWICE doesn't make it any more true or false.

You keep doing the same thing in your other posts in other threads. WHY??? On second thought, don't answer that. just STOP DOING IT! I'ts annoying.

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Although I think it is perfectly fine to use 'It is I', as 'to be' is a copulative verb, but in the case of 'It' being on the receiving end, or the object of the sentence seen in its entirety, then 'It is me' would not be incorrect.
To highlight my point, I'd take an example -
You are looking for Me -> Whom are you looking for? -> Is it me whom you are looking for? -> Yes, I think It is me whom you are looking for!!
As far as I know (I may be wrong here, please correct me), a copulative verb may not require the nouns/pronouns on either side to be Subjective, (or Nominative). But whatever they may be , nominative or accusative, both should be of the same form.
Do you think Im right? Even I need to know whether Im thinking in the right direction.

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Ok.. Rearrange my sentences so that the preposition isnt at the end..

Is it me for whom you are looking? -> Yes, It is me for whom you are looking!!

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you do not look for he/she
You look for her/him
Similarly, you donot look for 'I', you look for me.
Just break the sentence 'It is I for whom you are looking', and you'd see that "You are actually trying to look for I"!!!.. Isnt that wierd?

Any comments David?

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Thank you, Blackstubble. You are correct. I posted the very same point in this very thread in March of '06 (and elsewhere). The idea that copula must link only nominative to nominative is a misunderstanding. They simply link like cases:

Who do you believe that he is? I believe that he is I.
Whom do you believe him to be? I believe him to be me.

Taken from:

http://www.alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxits...

(also posted above)

Oh, and while we're at it, the "rule" about not ending sentences in prepositions is also a complete fiction. Any (and every) grammar book will say that it is allowed, in some cases non-preferred, but sometimes unavoidable.

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Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage says nothing about linking nominative to nominative and accusative to accusative. I think that is confusing the issue. In fact, we find "It's I" in formal situations, and "it's me" in real and fictional speech and in relaxed writing style. That's all.

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There is an assimilation to I in the sentence

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On a similar note, which is correct (whether written or spoken in a formal sense) from the following:
'How about you?' or 'How about yourself?'
Thanks.

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Should be - "How about YOU, yourself?".

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It's me or It's I are in reputable use and have been for a considerable time. It's I tends to be used in more formal or more stuffy situations and It's me predominates in real and fictional speech and more in relaxed writing style.

best regard
edona from Vienna

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I immensely enjoyed reading this blog. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the "It is I" or "it is me" debate.

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I've had such a great time reading your posts! Terribly interesting topic and even crazily funny in certain moments!

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"Everyone in our family speaks ungramatically," said I.
"That's we!" said she.

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Well, actually "It is I" may be more correct, but actually "It is me" sounds better as domain name (itisme.org).

Thus I use the incorrect case as my domain name, not the correct itisi.org, for aesthetical reasons.

By the way: I found that blog by searching for "It is me" ;-)

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So...which one is RIGHT?

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ty kyle (nov 13, 06)....
wow...it's feb 17, 08....anyway, today i was trying to get the correct answer to my question is it it is i, or is it me....
i aint spendin no mo time researching, but yers seems to me to be the right 1

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I smell flowers, but I am in an office in the warehouse and there are no flowers anywhere near me A strong fragrance of roses especially What does this mean?

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what about

It is I who Have chosen this fate

or

It is I who has chosen this fate

which one is correct?

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I like "It is I who have chosen this fate" better.

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Hi Eve,
"It is I who have chosen this fate" is correct. The relative pronoun "who" stands for the words "I".

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In spanish we say:

soy yo - It´s I


"It´s me" is incorrect

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what about

It is I who Have chosen this fate

or

It is I who has chosen this fate

which one is correct?

In spanish the second one is correct. You are speaking in 3rd person about yourself.

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Interesting...in the hymn 'Here I am Lord', there is a sentence that says "Here I am Lord, it is I Lord, I have heard etc. etc." I don't think it sounds right but after reading this blog, I guess it is grammatically corroec.

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It's funny how much people care about stupid things like this. I think Linguistics is kind of like Philosophy..........it's "mental masturbation" (Woody Allen). So, please everyone, STOP PLAYING WITH YOURSELVES!!

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Both of them are correct.

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irina says

March 6, 2006, 3:43pm

How about:
It is I who knocked on the door
but
It is me you are looking for.
?
But... above: misplaced preposition: Correct for is then:
It is for me you are looking.
After a preposition, the dative form is used.
This could be that the root of 'it is me', where an archaic construct is abbreviated:
'It is (given to) me (to be) who knocked on the door.
This, or similar constructs can be found in Latin and Gaelic.

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If you finish the thought: "It is I (who is here)" it sounds better to the ear. The only reason the ear doesn't always like hearing proper English is because we are very careless in our speaking habits--TV pundits are perpetuating poor grammar and usage.

Here is how I get around fracturing English usage in this particular case. Instead of saying, "It is I," which may be off-putting to some, I say, "It's Kathy." Problem solved.

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The problem is that scholars used to believe that English should resemble classical languages. In Greek and Latin, a nominative complement is used for their "to be" verbs. If one treats the verb "to be" as transitive (i.e., as if it takes a direct object), then clearly "me" should be used. If, instead, you believe that one should not split infinitives, and that one should not end sentences with prepositions (both of these rules are imported grammatical strictures from Latin and Greek), then you also likely believe that one should say, "It is I." Also, you will likely think that Shakespeare's use of "Woe is me" is incorrect. If you are reasonable, you will make room for both "It is me" and "It is I." Just notice how the latter makes you sound like a gigantic douchebag when you say it out loud ;)

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In "It is me", "me" is not a subject, and it's not an object. It's actually a so called "attribute", also known as "subject complement" (kindof a misnomer since it's not a subject at all).

In Latin, adjectives agree in case with the noun they modify. By extension, it makes sense to put the adjective "blue" in "The flower is blue" in the same case as "The flower" (it already agrees in gender and number, why not case?). By extension, it also makes sense to do the same thing to "a violet" in "The flower is a violet".

So in Latin, attributes take the same case as the noun they modify - usually the subject. A lot of other European languages also have case agreement like that - Russian, German. Old English used to be that way too.

HOWEVER, now English has pretty much lost case. The only standouts are the possessive 's and pronouns taking a different form when they're subject (I, he, she, we, they) versus everything else (me, him, her, us, them). It has also totally lost adjective agreement. Because of this, agreement of attributes with their subjects (or, in some rare cases like "I made him mad", objects) doesn't even make sense anymore. So essentially, English changed rules.

Old English: "It is I"
"I" is an attribute (for the subject) -> agree in case with "It" -> nominative ("I")

Modern English: "It is me"
"me" is an attribute -> not a subject -> not nominative -> "everything else" case ("me")

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Gosh, I would have thought this old argument had been flogged to death long ago. We say "it's me"; end of story.

Oh, and perhaps it would help if we tried to avoid terms like "nominative" when discussing English. Not one English noun possesses a nominative form.

The only five words in modern English that can generally considered "true nominatives" are I, he, she, we and they.

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This came up again when John Edwards said something like "it is me" and a talk show host said he was foolish and it should be "it is I", besides his transgressions of course. So I looked it up, and thanks for this blog.

While the academic information above and the linguistics comparisons to other language structures are great, I offer a middle of the road option that does not say that it just sounds better, but also does not get stuck in complex intricacies that may get away from the question perhaps and into pedantics that have apparently turned off some of the blog contributors.

Most (even highly educated) people don't delve into nominative, copulative, or other descriptors of a part of speech. I was previously taught something that has never let me down. If the sentence insinuates that "I" will be the person who acts in the second part of the sentence (such as "It was I who ate the pizza."), then I is a subject rather than object and is correct. (Of course who has to be thrown in and I know that will open up a whole other discussion as to whether "who" matters and "I" could be "me" instead).

If the placement of "I" is attempted at the end of a sentence, then what most people are looking for is simply a verb and subject structure of a basic sentence. Getting more complicated than that is the origin of why "It is I." sounds so snooty as described several times above. So in the same way that one might say "It is a piano.", one might say "It is me.", because "I" cannot be used as a subject in my understanding.

You could argue that one can say "The people on the first bus include Jen, John, and me.", rather than the other good option of "Jen, John and I will ride on the first bus." This all remains consistent (and much more sensible) to say whether you are using "I" in association with a verb, or whether "me" is used where there is no "me ride the bus" (which is why cookie monster sounds incorrect because he purposely is not using it correctly. The reason cookie monster is wrong is the same reason "it is I" is not my first choice, because "The sinner is me." is the same structure as "The roof is the shelter.", but using "Me like cookies." is the corollary of "Cookies are liked by I"... in other words, "me" can't like cookies but "I" can, and cookies can be liked by "me" but not by "I", depending on which is the subject of the sentence and therefore in which order the words appear; if me is used as a pronoun subject but I is used as the pronoun which performs the action of the sentence, it would be foolish to try using "I" at the end of a sentence of these forms).

As such, I'd like to respectfully disagree with the majority above, by saying that it is incorrect to say "Who is guilty? It is I.", but it is correct to say "It is I who am guilty." This can be explained by much simpler logic of nouns and subjects versus verbs, rather than the above complexities. I think the complexities above, although interesting, get away from the true usage of American English, where we are really looking to see whether "I" did something or not, and whether a list of subjects includes "me" (but cannot by rights include "I"). The reason is sounds better too, is because it is not some complex question, but rather a simple subject-verb structure of a phrase, and as such the simpler approach makes more sense to say "It is me."

Cheers

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It's unbelieveble how few people know about grammatic.
In the clause "It is I", "It" is the subject, "is" is the copulative verb and "I" is the predicative, which must be in nominative case, given the fact that English stil keeps cases for personal pronouns, such as I, He, She (me, him, her).

So, grammatically "It is I" is the only correct clause; neverthless, in the informal spoken English people usually say "It's me".

P(ost) S(criptum): in the clauses

It is I who knocked on the door

It is me you are looking for

you should notice that there are two cluases in the same period:
It is I (or me)
who you are looking for

so that "I" is still the predicative (in nominative case) for the first clause and is the complement depending on "looking for"

after the verb "to be" you always have a nominative, even in the second one, because in the second one you avoid the relative pronoun

It is I "who" you are looking for
or

It is I for whom you are looking

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45 years ago, one night, my housemaster (teacher person in a boarding school) saw a little red light up there on the 5th floor as he returned from a night out on the town."Who rat smokin' oop tha?" he called. The response came back " It is I " and the culprit was obvious: it was I! I was a pedant then, and consequently suffered for my virtuosity.

That will learn you to get your grammar right! 6 (strokes of the cane) of the best.

In future say "It is me" and if the pedants complain, say you are using the pronoun disjunctively, which is a) true and b) will shut the buggers up.

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It is suggested "Oh, and perhaps it would help if we tried to avoid terms like "nominative" when discussing English. Not one English noun possesses a nominative form.

The only five words in modern English that can generally considered "true nominatives" are I, he, she, we and they." End quote.

Now, that business about "It is I". The French would never say "C'est-je". They use the disjunctive pronoun "moi" for these things.

Pretentious?! Moi?!

Et toi!?

The best we can do is "me" - who said that? - Me! (technically I did, but ...)

Uh, so we have nominatives in English after all, hey? Not to mention "who" and "whom" difference. I use it myself to discuss subject/object difference. Helpful in learning Latin/Greek/German/Russian for starters, and Indo-European languages in general, Pali for example. I'd keep using the term, if that's okay with you.

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I have found this one in the archives: I quote: "English has also been influenced by the French. The French also make an exception, saying "c'est moi": It's me. The French use this construction only in the first person singular. Thus "It's me" is correct, yet "It's him" is less preferred that "It's he"."
The contributor was in error:
'C'est moi, c'est toi, c'est lui' for ...me...you...him. All disjunctive, not just first person, 'c'est nous, c'est vous, c'est eux' for ...us...you...them plural.

Here is another ancient entry: "Oh my goodness...Folks, it's called a predicate nominative, and in the sentence, "It is I," there are two of them. "It" is a subject, and "I" is a subject. They are set equal to each other with the verb "to be.""

Now, I say the subject is "It" and "is" is the copulative verb. "I" or "me" or whatever is the complement, completing the sense of the S+V here, as an object would with a transitive verb.

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I thought of myself as a language nut but this thread has been very interesting!

I was reminded of how English does not mark for disjunctive..

Thanks

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the sentence IT IS I has been a problem for me and other people.
thanks for your effort made for those of us that have had confusing over it.

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"I think I know who stole the petty cash; it was Janice!"
"Really? Which Janice?
"John's secretary. It was only she who had time and opportunity to copy the key to the safe."
"But it could have been you yourself!"
"Are you saying that it is I who have time and opportunity to copy the key?"

Or would one say "It was only her who had time....."
Or "It was me who has time..." (and then why "has" not "have")

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@jayles - Neither. I think you're trying to force an answer where one isn't necessary, as we are unlikely to use either:

"I think I know who stole the petty cash; it was Janice!"
"Really? Which Janice?
"John's secretary. She was the only person who had the time and opportunity to copy the key to the safe."
"But it could have been you yourself!"
"Are you saying that I'm the one who has the time and opportunity to copy the key? Is that what you're saying?

But on the occasions when we might use this construction:

informal - "it was her/me who did it"
formal - "it was she/I who did it"

"Object forms are common (in informal English), for example, in one-word answers and after the verb be: 'It's me that needs help' " - Michael Swan - Practical English Usage

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@WW I agree - and the whole scenario somewhat forced.

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Hey, guys. I find this site very productive.
I hope I can meet some good people, who will help me with my grammar.

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David the Relief

welcome, we are all some good people here.

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I am of the opinion that 'It is I' is correct.
It does however make me wonder about constructs like;
"I just have to be ____" - 'me' or 'I'?
"I am _____"- 'me' or I''?
"With that insight, I realized that in this context, it and I are both _____" - 'me' or 'I'?
"It and I have always been, currently are, and will always be ______" - 'me' or 'I'?

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I am of the opinion that 'It is I' is correct.
It does however make me wonder about constructs like;
"I just have to be ____" - 'me' or 'I'?
"I am _____"- 'me' or I''?
"With that insight, I realized that in this context, it and I are both _____" - 'me' or 'I'?
"It and I have always been, currently are, and will always be ______" - 'me' or 'I'?

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I am of the opinion that 'It is I' is correct.
It does however make me wonder about constructs like;
"I just have to be ____" - 'me' or 'I'?
"I am _____"- 'me' or I''?
"With that insight, I realized that in this context, it and I are both _____" - 'me' or 'I'?
"It and I have always been, currently are, and will always be ______" - 'me' or 'I'?

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@BGriffin

"I just have to be ____" - 'me' or 'I'? I would suggest neither, but - 'myself'
"I am _____"- 'me' or I''? again neither - 'I am what/who I am'

I'm afraid I don't understand your last two sentences. How can 'it' and 'I' be 'me' or 'I'. Sorry, but I can't make out the sense of these sentences

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Thanks for the response Warsaw Will...
.
"...."I just have to be ____" - 'me' or 'I'? I would suggest neither, but - 'myself'...."
-I like this answer even if it doesn't technically answer the question. When someone inquires whether 'It is I' or 'It is he/she' is correct, would you say 'no' and instead suggest 'It is myself'?

"...."I am _____"- 'me' or I''? again neither - 'I am what/who I am'...."
-Once again I find myself liking your answer, and also curious how it relates to other constructs. If someone were to inquire on the phone if they were speaking to ______ your formal name), do you think it is advisable to respond with "It is what/who I am"?
.

"....I'm afraid I don't understand your last two sentences. How can 'it' and 'I' be 'me' or 'I'. Sorry, but I can't make out the sense of these sentences..."
.
Hopefully I can help clear up any confusion.
Since 'it' can be a variety of things, simply replace it with something that plausibly might not have been realized to actually be ones own person....
"We have seen the enemy and it is us"
"It turns out, all along it wasn't some other person holding me back. It and I have always been, currently are, and always will be _____" -'I' or 'me'
'this is not a matter of explicit naming; 'the same person' is not in the set of choices.

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@BGriffin

"I just have to be ____" - I didn't exactly answer your question the way you wanted because I would never say me or I there. The standard way to repeat the pronoun is with a reflexive.

"I am _____" - again I can't imagine anyone saying me or I here. What does it mean? Mind you the Beatles get close to it in 'I am the Walrus' - 'I am he as you are he as you are me'

OK I see there are several references to "We have seen the enemy and it is us" - and that's fine - the enemy is us.

But in "With that insight, I realized that in this context, it and I are both _____" , I have no idea what it refers to. What is its antecedent. OK, presuming it is some sort of problem already mentioned, again I would never say I or me here, but "it and I are one and the same thing"

And the same with "It turns out, all along it wasn't some other person holding me back. It and I have always been, currently are, and always will be _____" - I have no idea what or who the second it refers to; what's its antecedent?

Unless you mean something like "It turns out, that all along it wasn't some other person holding me back. It has always been, currently is, and always will be me" (purists will probably say I, but that sounds unnatural to me)

I think you can say 'it is me / I' - 1 = 1, but not 'it and I are me / I' where1 + 1 = 1. It sounds neither logical nor natural to me. Incidentally, none of these get a single hit on Google - ''it and I are both me', 'it and I are both I', 'it and I are me' , 'it and I are I'. Sorry, but it just ain't English :)

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What?

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Walrus Will,
Would you allow 'It and I are going to the store'?
What if I later confided in you that 'it' was just a character that I made up to keep me company, and told you that ''It' was actually me/I'.
Let's further pretend that this confused you and you asked, 'Well if you are it, then who was the 'I' you were referring to when you spoke of going to the store together?'
To which I would feel the need to respond by explaining, 'It and I are both _____'.
.
Still too turbid? Hopefully you understand the possibility for this to arise. It is actually still English, even if it is a part that makes you less than comfortable,

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@BGriffin - Sorry, but all this stuff with an unidentified 'it' makes no sense whatsoever to me and I have to rather agree with Brus' pithy comment. Somebody just doesn't go to the store with an it, they go with someone or perhaps their dog.

If this is a character you've made up, why it (especially as it's apparently you - are you an it)? Why not he or she? Again there is not one single entry for 'it and I are' on Google. And again the logic doesn't hold up - I can't go to the store with myself. But if you insist - 'It and I are both me'. However, no sorry, I don't understand the possibility of it arising, or really what you're on about, at all.

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Is 'it' your imaginary friend?

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@Warsaw Will -
With their continuation, your apologies are beginning to seem less sincere. I am not bothered by someone who is genuinely having a hard time understanding something presented, regardless of on which side the problem lies. I am a bit bothered when someone makes an effort to place new obstacles in the path in what appears to be an attempt to prove that they were 'right all along' and that the idea is beyond all reasonable comprehension.
I will suspend my disbelief of your sincerity a bit longer and try to help you flesh this out on the increasingly more remote chance that you really genuinely want to understand and have simply failed to do so thus far. In exchange, I would appreciate it if you would extend me the courtesy off letting me know that you are not engaged in anything remotely like teaching creative writing.
To begin with, grocery stores, around here at least, do not require any positive identification of sex nor a declaration of gender to enter the store. Similarly, the police do not make regular stops to confirm that everything in the car has a specific gender or sex. To top it all off, the English language, unlike a number of other languages, does not even assign a specific sex to the majority of words.
With no disrespect to Brus here, you have to be reading a lot into a comment that isn't there, or have pretty low standards to consider 'What' worthy of distinction as 'pithy'.
The world is filled with possibilities, not impossibilities. Warsaw Will, do you ever talk things out in your head?....have a conversation with....yourself? I'm here to let you know that you don't have to leave 'yourself' in a kennel at home when you go to the grocery store. Yourself can accompany you and you and yourself can continue talking it our in your head, in the grocery store.
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Perhaps if you stop leaving it caged every time you leave the house, you will be able to work out this relatively simple hypothetical soon.
.
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Sure, Brus, it might be an imaginary friend. Just to reiterate, there is no requirement that imaginary friends be assigned a specific gender or have a specific sex.

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Perhaps it would be more helpful to focus on real life examples. The following come from published books:
"It is I, Sea Gull;": Valentina Tereshkova, First Woman in ...
It is I who have chosen you: an autobiography
it is I who am responsible for my character.
In fact the phrase "it is I who..." or "it is I that.." is by far the commonest way "it is I" is used. Or even:
(Josephine Klein - 2003 )
It is I whom you delight in ... It is I whom you serve; it is I whom you long for, whom you desire; it is I whom you mean; it is I who am all. Twelfth Revelation,

"it is I." appears in "Life is Tough, But God is Faithful: How to See God's Love ..."

All That We See and Do - Page 117: It is I, Nordia. It is I. It is OK. I am that powerful. I'll show My might...


And lastly:

http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=TWtZLoR9Q10C...

Clearly an amazing example of how to teach modern English idiom.

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"it is I who", and "it was I who", seem commoner in books than the "me" versions:

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

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@BGriffin - "sorry, but" is usually seen as a polite way of introducing the fact that you're going to disagree, like a less formal way of saying "I regret to tell you", but if you'd rather dispense with the niceties, that's fine by me.

I have no idea what all that stuff about the grocery stores and the law had to do with anything - I was talking about logic and language, not the law.

"It and I are me/I" is like saying 1 + 1 = 1, a + b = b, red and blue = blue, it makes no sense, unless you add in "both". But in any case you've left me off the hook, as although I don't teach creative writing, I do teach foreigners English, and I will just say that if one of my students presented a sentence such as 'It and I are me/I', I would mark it wrong. Why? Because it's not a sentence the average native speaker would find acceptable. I remind you that these short simple sentences appear nowhere on the Internet.

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Warsaw Will,
.
I'm not in the habit of saying things that I don't know, or at least feel strongly, are true, even if social pressure attempts to coerce me by suggesting I'd better do the polite thing. I urge others to resist that subservience as well. You didn't seem 'sorry', in your initial replies, and this was confirmed in your last reply. It is pretty clear you felt no real regret in informing me that your opinion on the matter is at odds with mine. It is no more genuinely considerate to announce a difference in opinion with 'I'm sorry' or 'I regret to inform you', than is to send a 'With deepest sympathies' card to someone on their birthday....it is a false echo of consideration that no one believes is genuine. I commend you for dropping the niceties. Honesty is the best policy.
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Are you thoroughly convinced that everything in existence, or more precisely anything that could properly exist is certain to be found on the internet?
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Even if you are...you are wrong about "It and I are me/I" appearing nowhere on the internet. You, yourself have now added it several times. What does that suggest about the value of that metric?
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You analogy, that attempts to restrict the possibilities of what a name or a pronoun might describe in the rigid way addition of integers is restricted, falls flat. Spoken language is far more nuanced than simple addition.
"1+1+1+1-3=1" is the same no matter how it is read.
"You don't think she wants me to go to that store with you, do you?" does not simply have one absolute meaning.
Analogies are powerful tools. As with any powerful tool, it irresponsible to wield analogies recklessly.

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