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“This is she” vs. “This is her”

A common example is the phrase “This is she.” used to answer a telephone. ‘She’ is the nominative form of the word, so it cannot be used to describe somebody who is the object of a sentence (in this example, ‘this’ would be the subject). The correct way to phrase the example would be “This is her.”, though most people prefer the familiar businesslike shorthand “Speaking.”


From another site, this was the response:

“This is she” is grammatically correct. The verb “to be” acts as a linking verb, equating subject and object. So this is she and she is this; “she” and “this” are one and the same, interchangeable, and to be truly interchangeable they must both play the same grammatical role—that of the subject.


I am quite confused! I believe “This is her” is correct because it is understood that “speaking” is simply omitted; thus, we know the speaker is implying “This is her speaking” when she answers “This is her.” After all, we ask to speak to her. When she answers that she’s the one who had answered the call, she’s (obviously) speaking at the time. Therefore, it is her speaking.

What is your opinion on the matter?

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She and her father look alike
Her and her father look alike

Mellinda November 25, 2015, 2:35pm

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Warsaw, a lot of people seem unaware of the value of propositions, and clauses are certainly part of most propositions. As a writer, I can also agree that it is very important to know your clauses. Such allows for much better punctuation at the very least. Sadly, because there are as many grammars and grammarians as there are and have been in English, we get several terms for that which is more or less the same thing. Look at a matrix clause, independent clause, main clause, superordinate clause, and so forth. Again, I stress [more or less]. While one such term may be used more by one school or grammar; or more in linguistics than teaching as a profession, my using bound relative clause (versus free relative clause) was only meant as contrast, not pedantry or arrogance. I'd definitely prefer having one term "per phenomenon" to ten terms per phenomenon, even if there are such subtle differences between their usages as there sometimes are.

polisny October 10, 2015, 3:42am

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I couldn't say either. I would say "that is me". I don't know if that is correct English or not, but I will bend the language to avoid pompous sounding expressions like "John and I" and will use the incorrect "me and John". Maybe it just sounds so against my working class upbringing. If I can find a third alternative, or any way of avoiding these pompous expressions, I will use that, otherwise I will use the incorrect expression, knowing that some idiot will say it is wrong.....

Jane2765 October 8, 2015, 10:20am

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@polisny - My point about the expression 'bound relative clause' was that it is rare outside specialist circles - indeed I would call it jargon, while 'relative clause' is pretty well common currency. On Google, there are a mere 400 hits for "bound relative clause" ( a thousand times that for relative clause, and none at all on Ngram.

In most grammar teaching outside linguistics, bound relative clauses ("the type most often considered" - Wikipedia) are simply referred to as relative clauses, although divided into defining and non-defining, or other similar expressions: restrictive / non-restrictive, identifying / identifying, and ocasionally sentential and co-ordinating. Yes in linguistics, bound relative clauses contrast with free relative clauses: "What I want is ..., All I said was ...", but we usually call them nominal relative clauses, and deal with them separately.

Warsaw Will October 8, 2015, 8:59am

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Sorry for the few errors in my reply, I can't edit them. I am also an English teacher and imagine that I enjoy quibbling over English just as much as the next teacher. I'm also a writer and probably like yourself spend a lot of my time debating and learning. It's fun!

polisny October 5, 2015, 11:17am

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@Warsaw Will,

well, you did apply the verb to delight advisedly, and you were right to do so. I de not delight, generally, in using terms for their sake. The term diachronic opposes synchronic and is used in lexicography, among other domains. It only refers to a dictionary that records a language historically versus at present only. The OED is one such dictionary. All you have to do is ask if a term is used and you don't understand it, or consult a dictionary, of course. I didn't impose the term as some kind of "infelicity."

Also, no, a bound relative clauses was stated as such for a reason. If you go back and look, you'll see that it contrasted other kinds of relative clause. There is not merely one kind of relative clause.

Also, yes, I do explain at length concepts you yourself might be aware of. However, I take expression seriously enough that I try to account for what I say rather than expecting others to assume what is meant, which isn't their job. If you'll recall, the thread is entitled the way it is for a reason. Not that you speak for everyone in the thread, nor even the majority, but if everyone knew what a complement were I doubt the thread would have been put up in the first place. Nonetheless, it's gotten some attention over the years, and I suspect that such is partly the reason.

Finally, referential indexicality wasn't addressed to you, although I did explain what it means given that it is a term. Had you contextualized my reply, you'd have seen that it wasn't meant for you but for the person who responded after you. I entertained the possibility that their message had been intended as some kind of rebuttal to what I previously wrote of gerunds.

I hadn't intended on condescending to you.

polisny October 5, 2015, 11:16am

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@polisny - I'm afraid you lost me at "diachronic lexicon", and then again at "referential indexicality". I teach English and run a grammar blog and have a pretty reasonable grasp of grammatical terms, but you seem to delight in using highly specialist terminology, which I would suggest is rather out of place here, (a "bound relative clause", for example, is known to most of the world and his dog simply as a relative clause), or feel the need to explain at great length concepts we are well aware of , such as subject complements.

Sorry to say this, but I might be more interested in reading what you have to say if you used a bit of plain English, in perhaps a rather more concise way, and I didn't feel I was being spoken down to the whole time.

Warsaw Will September 24, 2015, 9:20am

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Holy crap, I was reading the beginning and saw it was from 2006, then I scrolled down and it's still going on. It's been 9 years! If one of the original posters had a child, that child would now be in 4th grade and could probably also offer insight into this debate.

DaniCalifornia September 23, 2015, 3:56pm

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If the latter response is meant for me, there's a linguistic concept called "referential indexicality," which broadly refers to meaning that is context-dependent, that you might like to look into. A gerund's meaning can change according to context, such as in these two examples: "I usually end up speaking to my sister when I get bored" (where speaking is not thought of as speech), and "We know little about the timing of language's emergence in our species. Unlike writing, speaking leaves no material trace, making it archaeologically invisible" (where speaking is not thought of as talking trivially).

Noscitur a sociis comes to mind...

polisny September 19, 2015, 10:54pm

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You said: "You call “He ain’t happy” colloquial American English, to which a Londoner might reply “No, it ain’t”, well, not exclusively, at least. It seems to have developed from “an’t”, of which there are three examples in Congreve’s Love for Love (1695), my favourite being “Sea-calf! I an't calf enough to lick your chalk'd face, you cheese-curd, you.”. There are several examples of the use of “ain’t” in Dickens, and for a while it was also part of British upper class cant. In modern London dialect “ain’t” is often used in double negatives –“I ain’t never seen him”, “It ain’t none of your business”. In popular culture there was the 1970s British TV series “It ain’t half hot, Mum”, and more up to date, we have “I ain’t bovvered” (Lauren, Catherine Tait Show). While I totally agree with you about the “my variety of English is better than yours” way of thinking, which of course is linguistic nonsense, I would hate to see British English denied its claim to this particular and important corner of the language."

I suppose any serious diachronic lexicon would show that its many usages have developed independently, although I agree that by all accounts it likely developed first in England as a variation of "I am not." Your point about part of the word's originating in England (that is, orthographically) is well-received and well-made, and informative: its history deserves to be shared rather than expurgated. :)

Next you say: "It’s true that English has no academy, a fact I rejoice in, but you seem to be suggesting that for that reason descriptivism “takes home the prize” . But I’m afraid I don’t see any necessary connection between the two. Prescriptivism and descriptivism are two different ways of looking at language, and the lack of an academy didn’t stop prescriptivism ruling the roost in English grammar on both sides of the Atlantic for some two hundred years. Nor does the existence of an academy rule out a descriptive approach: the three volume Gramática Descriptiva de la Lengua Española, is published under the auspices of none other than the Real Academia Española (R.A.E), often seen as the guardians of prescriptivism in Spain."

Let's start with the fact that English is taught, the fact that any of its patterns are sometimes presumed "correct" or "incorrect," and additionally, with the fact that English is frequently taught as having grammatically justified rules and as conforming to norms. Prior to making my point, actually, I'd like first to erase your adjective necessary in "necessary connection," since I did not argue deductively and since that would otherwise misrepresent my position. Also, I'd like to point out that I didn't say: "schools, pedagogues, and self-appointed grammarians haven't prescribed," (perfect aspect). Rather, I said that because English has no language academy at present, it follows that lexicography reports native English usage without reference to prescriptive grammar(s); just as it follows that descriptivism (grammar) conforms to conventional standards rather than to any particular set of rules proposed by any particular self-appointed grammarian. With English's being made up of so many different languages and its being influenced by so many different, often conflicting grammars, I fail to see a more sensible or ethical grammar than one that reports standard English as it is used conventionally.

If English is to be taught so that learners speak and write it in a standard way, then [describing] and reporting it as it is used conventionally and in its standard ways is logically truer to those conventions and standards than reducing it to a set of given prescriptions: the conventions and standards represent much of the language as it is and has always been used; whereas, excluding pedagogical and cultural traditions, no other approach structures or has structured its conventions or standards consistently. Therefore, descriptivism not only serves as a more consistent approach to inform and justify preferred usage throughout the English language, but better communicates its conventions and standards.

In short, when people claim such things as "it IS 'this is she' and NOT 'this is her'," they do so correctly only if they appeal to any particular grammar. However, if they want to report actual standard English in either convention, their claim is false. What's more, conforming to Latin influences in grammar doesn't explain to inquiring people that any number of pertinent variations exist, and that each can be justified in different ways. A descriptive approach (as seen in lexicography) does.

"Ellipsis, gerunds and present participles – some modern grammarians are dropping the distinction between gerunds and present participles, and in EFL teaching we often refer to both as –ing forms, but seeing you mentioned them, there is no way I can see “Speaking” in your “Hi Scott” example being an ellipsis of a gerund phrase (at least not in the way gerund is understood in English grammar, i.e. as having a nominal function)."

That's easy. First, I was responding to a fellow who had tried to impose the notion onto his interlocutor that speaking had to be a noun and used in its most literal sense. I pointed out that it could well be used as a finite or non-finite present participle or a gerund as seen in a verb pattern (versus as a grammatical subject, the meaning and function of which I exemplified for contrast and which would be clear through contextualization). Second, it's not that hard to omit and simultaneously imply a verb pattern where speaking could be a gerund. "Is Scott there?" "yes (I'm), speaking," present continuous. "Is Scott there," "(by way of) speaking." :) Both of these constitute elliptical structures, the first of which is a main clause, and the second of which is a prepositional phrase. Now, of course, I'm happy to admit that nearly no one would answer a phone and imply "by way of" so as to justify the gerund. My point was that if the fellow some 1000 posts ago wanted to make people feel stupid, then all kinds of linguistic gymnastics could be exercised if to shame other people. Still, "this is she" versus "this is her" are both very well explained with elliptical clauses.

As you rightly explain about ellipsis, yes what is implied is usually so obvious that it merits being left out; whereas, leaving too much out would leave a listener to wonder. However examples like, "Where is he going later, Bill?" "To dance" (vs, "he is going to dance") instead of "Where is he going later, Bill" "dance" (where, through pragmatic knowledge on the part of the listener, "dance" refers to teaching lessons as an instructor and therefore: "to my Monday night dance lesson" instead of as it would most likely be wrongly interpreted through even the slightest remove.--I concede that this does not justify entire compound-complex sentences's being reduced to mere -ing words on a regular basis, since that would of course be ludicrous except in some form of, say, sentential phone scrabble. :-P

polisny September 19, 2015, 10:02pm

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The Hungarian word "ing" translates as "shirt" in English. However, calling the "-ing" form of the verb the "shirt" form is not well understood; nor does it prove the existence of an Ugric substrate in English.

jayles the unwoven September 17, 2015, 5:01pm

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Well, it seems to me you’ve somewhat overcomplicated a relatively simple issue, but you raise some interesting points. I'll limit myself, however, to briefly looking at just four:

You call “He ain’t happy” colloquial American English, to which a Londoner might reply “No, it ain’t”, well, not exclusively, at least. It seems to have developed from “an’t”, of which there are three examples in Congreve’s Love for Love (1695), my favourite being “Sea-calf! I an't calf enough to lick your chalk'd face, you cheese-curd, you.”. There are several examples of the use of “ain’t” in Dickens, and for a while it was also part of British upper class cant. In modern London dialect “ain’t” is often used in double negatives –“I ain’t never seen him”, “It ain’t none of your business”. In popular culture there was the 1970s British TV series “It ain’t half hot, Mum”, and more up to date, we have “I ain’t bovvered” (Lauren, Catherine Tait Show). While I totally agree with you about the “my variety of English is better than yours” way of thinking, which of course is linguistic nonsense, I would hate to see British English denied its claim to this particular and important corner of the language.

It’s true that English has no academy, a fact I rejoice in, but you seem to be suggesting that for that reason descriptivism “takes home the prize” . But I’m afraid I don’t see any necessary connection between the two. Prescriptivism and descriptivism are two different ways of looking at language, and the lack of an academy didn’t stop prescriptivism ruling the roost in English grammar on both sides of the Atlantic for some two hundred years. Nor does the existence of an academy rule out a descriptive approach: the three volume Gramática Descriptiva de la Lengua Española, is published under the auspices of none other than the Real Academia Española (R.A.E), often seen as the guardians of prescriptivism in Spain.

Ellipsis, gerunds and present participles – some modern grammarians are dropping the distinction between gerunds and present participles, and in EFL teaching we often refer to both as –ing forms, but seeing you mentioned them, there is no way I can see “Speaking” in your “Hi Scott” example being an ellipsis of a gerund phrase (at least not in the way gerund is understood in English grammar, i.e. as having a nominal function). Nor do I think tit ios necessary to think about any number of possible variations – “Speaking” here is simply an ellipsis of the natural English expression “This is Scott speaking”. No further explanation (such as “the person who(m) ... etc ”) is necessary, and I would suggest, leads you into very unnatural constructions that no native speaker would ever utter. As I understand it, elipsis is the omission of words from natural expressions, such as "It's time you went to bed" "I don't want to (go to bed)", not from artificial constructs.

Lastly, I would be careful with expressions like “a lot of common French people”. Native speakers might not read this in quite the way you intended!

Warsaw Will September 16, 2015, 8:53am

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I have to say that a lot of the arguments for "this is she" as well as "this is her" fall quite short of the mark.

First, it is true that English is not an academic language. This means that it has no academy to prescribe rules. Instead, we have two conventions of English: British and American. There is standard English, however the argument that "this is she" is to be preferred because it is standard shows that the person arguing such doesn't understand what standard means. Standard in this context only means conforming to English that is spoken in either convention by educated natives. For example, "he ain't happpy" isn't standard English but colloquial American English; which descriptively, is still a linguistic oversimplification. Rather what is standard according to said convetion is "He isn't happy" or more formal "He is not happy."

That's it. English has no academy and therefore descriptivism indeed takes home the prize.
That said, why are some people so angry about saying "this is she" versus "this is her?" Easy. Culture. They've always learned that "this is she" is how we say such, therefore they want to argue that it must be the case. However, as can be seen in several of the posts, such people don't know how to argue logically and therefore appeal to underhand suggestions that attack outside cultures. "English originiated in Britian... therefore." "Americans don't speak English as well as the British... therefore."

The crux of the issue is merely in ellipitical clauses. When one requests to speak to someone by phone, yet does not know who has answered, the person who responds will usually answer with an elliptical clause, which omis and simultaneously implies any number of words.

For example, "Hi, is Scott there?" Response: "speaking." Here, "speaking" could be a gerund or present participle, the gerund's not at all needing to suggest "speech" in a sentence like "Speaking developed in humans over 70 thousand years ago" but can simply be part of a verb pattern (like, "I hate speaking to my little sister" where the gerund can of course be interpreted as a grammatical argument that reveals information about the subject. Non-finite verbs, however, are not meant to reveal information about the subject; whereas in the example sentence, even if the non-finite verb were uninflected: "I hate [to talk] to my sister," most educated native speakers in both conventions would agree that the person must therefore talk to their sister at least from time to time. Note, pay attention to the modal verb "must," which does not argue deductively, but inductively. ;)

That is, when the person says "speaking," what they are saying is "this is the person who you are looking for and who is speaking now." It's all boiled down to "speaking," because Scott knows that the listener's capacity to assume as an intelligent being rather than a computer is such that he will assume that such is what is meant. As well, it's simply more timely and natural to speak in such a way, among other things.

If Scott had said "this is him," then the object pronoun could be imbedded in a bound relative clause where "him" is the object argument placed in the subordinate clause, "this is him (the person) whom you seek (where "whom you seek" is implied. :) )

And, now more easily: "Is Sue there?" (asked in the third person singular, and for the sake of coherence, so used in), "yes, this is she." In this example response, "This" is the demonstrative determiner that replaces the noun (and following noun phrase) "the person" or "the person you are looking for." One more time: "Is Sue there?" Response: "The person you are looking for is she." (I know, under the American convention, the sentence "this is she," and the latest development "the person you are looking for is she" would seem immediately defective. Just bear with me. If you're used to the British convention of English, know that for some people, saying such sentences would be like petting a dog backwards). Continuging, in this final case of explored responses, we are arguing for the usage of "she" in the sentence "this is she" and therefore it behooves us to say that the demonstrative determiner "this" is the subject, and hence the copula "is" predicates a subject complement: "she" by necessity. In an elliptical clause, "who is speaking" could be interpreted as well, in "this is she... who is speaking."

For some people, the problem still remains in the last part of this explanation: "she" [isn't an object] but a subject, so why is it in the place of an object. The simple answer is that it's not an object. The long answer is that in English more broadly, syntax generally conforms to the pattern: Subject, verb, object. Hence, it might seem like "this" is the subject, "is," the verb, and therefore "her" or "me,"necessarily the object. Not so. The confusion is in the details of copulas.

Let me clarify.

A copula (or more technically, a copular verb) is a special kind of verb, of which there are not very many at all. In a lot of languages, there is only one copular verb: "To be." In English, there are a few, but the most frequently used copular verb is the same: "to be." Copula comes from Latin and only means "link" or "tie." As such, we also call such verbs "linking verbs."

It gets more complicated, but not by much. Bear with me.

A "true" linking verb is always and only a linking verb. What does a true copula or linking verb do? It connects a subject with a complement. It cannot be an action. To walk is only an action verb, therefore to walk cannot be a linking verb. To [be] (happy) isn't an action. It cannot be. Again, to be is only a linking verb.

There are some other linking verbs, but the point is twofold:
1. In English, there are only just a few "true" linking verbs, and therefore it is easy to confuse their subject complements for grammatical objects. Like, "this is she" vs "this is her."

2. Because a true linking verb is followed by a complement, and because we decided that "this"is the subject in the response "this is she," the complement is by deductive inference therefore a subject complement. Subject complements that are pronouns [replace, mirror or describe their subjects] and therefore [are so inflected].

Incidentally, "subject complement" is the door to the academic world on this very question: "This is she," or "this is her." As others have attempted and as John rightly deflected, while subject complements are in the nominative case in Latin, nominative meaning that the noun or pronoun is inflected as a subject of its verb, English is not Latin. English is English and is made up of three contending morphological histories. Germanic, Latin and Greek, along with several other influences. Because there is no academy of English, there is no universally [elected] authority of the language. That's why John used "descriptivism" so much in his responses. "The rules are only as good as what is considered right by most native, educated speakers." I added to that, however, that the problem is culture, and indeed it is. There is no doubt that many teachers use such Latin influences traditionally in teaching children how to speak English, thinking that because the grammar they teach makes sense and has been done before, it must be said way. In fact, European linguistics tends to study traditional subjects; whereas in the US, linguistics focuses on phonetics and phonology a great deal more. National educations also differ considerably between Great Britain and the US. In Great Britain, many people study Latin. Not in the US.

One of the dangers of national or traditional education systems is that when something complicated or just plain wrong is taught, it is taught to everyone. In France, for example, the national education has taught for decades that in English, the imperfect (aspect) is translated with "en train de," which is only an expression of time that means "in the process of" or "in the middle of." Result? Everytime we say something in English like "I was watching t.v. yesterday night," a lot of common French people might try to translate the -ing as "J'ai été en train de regarder la télé hier soir," which of course means something different, just as if we had said, "I was in the middle of watching t.v. last night."

Now, just imagine how different regions of the country must interact with each other on their forums about such questions :)

polisny September 13, 2015, 3:34pm

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"This is she" is correct. You can skip all the jargon if you want to. Here's how I remember it: add a silent "who ..." after the sentence. "She who is speaking."

The reason is, you're announcing a subject ("she") who is going to be an actor in the sentence (be followed by a verb). "It is I who come." Not "It is me who comes." "Me" can't do anything, because it's an object. Only "I" can do things like come, speak, etc.

That's also why, you also use the pronoun-as-subject in certain comparisons. "He's better at cooking than I." Not "me." Because it's shorthand for, "He's better at cooking than I am." Not "me am."

Another example: "I like cheese better than she." You're comparing the verb ("like"), not the people ("I" and "she"). You're comparing how much you like cheese to how much she likes it. You're not comparing how much you like cheese to how much you like your friend. "I like cheese better than her," means - this is the literal meaning of this construction - that if you had to choose between the cheese and your friend, you'd pick the cheese.

None of this is a matter of opinion. It's just the way these parts of speech work. Sure, you can misuse them colloquially and still be understood, and if you do use them correctly you might even risk sounding like a nerd for your trouble. Still I think it's important to understand these words for what they are.

I mean, sure, you can use a flathead screwdriver to pry a nail out of the wall - it does work - but that's not what the tool is for, and if you want to use it skillfully it's important to know what it's for and why.

Elisabeth May 22, 2015, 11:21pm

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A bit off topic, but never mind. The literal translation of 'soy yo' may well be 'I am I', but that is meaningless in English and an idiomatic translation would be something more like 'it's me'. From various songs, with my efforts at translation:

Soy yo quien mira la lluvia - It's me who's looking at the rain / I'm the one looking at the rain
Alguien te amó y alguien soy yo - Someone loved you and that someone is me.
Y esta soy yo - And this is me
Soy yo, te lo digo a ti. - It's me, I'm telling you

Warsaw Will August 15, 2014, 6:03am

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In Spanish, "soy yo" does not mean "I am me." It means "I am I." The translation for "I am me" is "soy mi," which is grammatically incorrect under Spanish grammar.

CP August 14, 2014, 6:04pm

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@joy - as some of our sillier rules (for example not using split infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition) have resulted from grammarians trying to align English with Latin, I would say no.

But I think what Brus is trying to do is show an analogy rather than prove a point, and I think it's always interesting to compare languages. At Wikipedia, they say:

"in answering to the question "Who wrote this page?" The natural answer for most English speakers in this context would be "me" (or "It's me"), parallel to moi (or C'est moi) in French."

But they go on to point out a big difference. While 'pronoms disjoints' (or stressed pronouns) are an accepted form in the most formal of French grammar (eg: L'état, cést moi), 'disjunctive pronouns' (the standard term) do not have the same status in traditional English grammar. Many traditional grammarians don't accept this form as correct, and you won't find the term 'disjunctive pronoun' used much in English grammars at all, whether in traditional prescriptive or modern descriptive grammars. Disjunctive is usually used in connection with conjunctions, as is copulative, incidentally. For example all references to 'disjunctive pronoun' in 19th century books at Google Books is for French.

So I think that when they flock to the bookshops, Brus's friends might be rather disappointed.

As an English teacher, I'd rather just go with this type of explanation (from Practical English Usage, by Michael Swan):

'In informal English, we use object forms not only as the objects of verbs and prepositions, but also in most other cases where the words do not come before verbs as their subjects. Object forms are common, for example, in one-word answers and after be:"Who said that?" - "(It was) him"; "Who's that?" -"(It's) me". In a more formal style, we often prefer to use subject form + verb where possible: "Who said that?" - "He did" (but not "he")'.

There are also problems with calling this use the 'disjunctive pronoun'. Firstly, because we don't have a separate form, as in French, secondly because it is not universally accepted, and thirdly because it is used in French in ways we can't use it in English, for example -

Lui seul a travaillé hier.
He alone worked yesterday.

Eux aussi veulent venir.
They want to come too.

I know we have 'Me and Johnny went to the pub last night' - but that's very controversial, and is only used in joint subjects with 'and'.

It's interesting that another use of pronoms disjoints is in comparisons, another controversial area in English:

Il travaille plus que moi. - which could be translated three ways in English:

He works more than I - very formal and old-fashioned but keeps the purists happy:
He works more than I do - neutral and more 'polite'
He works more than me. - informal

Here is one grammar book that does use the term 'disjunctive pronoun', but it points out that 'Unlike in French, where such constructions are considered standard, English pronouns used in this way have caused dispute':

So on balance I prefer to explain these things within the (real) rules of English. We already have all the terminology we need, although with my students I will obviously compare structures with their language when it makes things easier.

I haven't really answered as to why not, but I think that I've shown that similar constructions are often used in very different ways in different languages. The grammar of each language is unique.

Warsaw Will May 3, 2014, 7:58am

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There has been an ongoing theme on this thread of people using the grammar of another language to prove their case in English. A general question for everyone: Is that really a valid tactic? Why or why not?

joy April 30, 2014, 8:04pm

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It is an example of a copulative disjunctive, which sounds really kinky. It means the same grammatical structure as 'C'est moi!' in French: subject - 'being/becoming' verb - complement. Such verbs don't have an object, they should have a nominative complement. When this is in the form of a pronoun, as is very usual in using the first person of the verb, the disjunctive (me/us) is preferred: 'It is I' or (impersonal) 'it was we who ...' sound a bit implausible, no? Especially "It is I" when answering the phone, for example. But there are times when "It is I" is okay, as in "It is I who have to shoulder the burden".

Second person: you can't tell, as all forms go "you".

Third person: 'That's him/her/them', because 'that' is impersonal, and wants a disjunctive complement, which in English looks like the accusative/object form. In French it would be 'lui/elle/eux'. "C'est lui qui doit ..." and such is the French attention to their grammar, so sadly badly taught in England, or not at all, that I would put "Ce sont eux qui doivent ...".

Back to the point: when people ask for me on the phone I say (if indeed it is me) "that's me", and if they grumble about my grammar I say I am using the disjunctive pronoun "me" because it is appropriate in a short statement, not followed by a relative clause, and if they don't like it they must put up with it.
That usually puts their gas on a peep, as we say in Scotland, and has them flocking to bookshops seeking works on English grammar for their edification.

Brus April 30, 2014, 7:17pm

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@ Peter (in belated Re: to your question posted Feb 24)-

Two categories:
1) The professional men in my life tend to answer with a confirmation of their identity.

"Is this John Smith?"
"Yes, this is John."

2) My homeboys answer:


Not to say I haven't heard "This is he." I have, just less often than I hear the women in my family use it. And admittedly, I hear "This is him." occasionally too. It may have something to do with a belief peculiar to my family that the women are raised to be the bastions of good grammar, whereas the young male children are perhaps allowed more leeway because women are thought to be the early and most influential educators of each subsequent generation. Therefore correct grammar is more important to their role in the family.

Just a random theory.

joy April 30, 2014, 7:10pm

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OK, as I really can't get my head around when anyone would say either 'This is she' or 'This is her', how about this - which pair sound more natural?

That's her over there. This will be him coming now.
That's she over there. This will be he coming now.

Exactly the same grammatical structure - copular verb with theoretically a subject complement rather than an object - bot who would ever say the latter pair?

Warsaw Will April 30, 2014, 5:50pm

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But if you're an American "he" you'd be more likely to say "thaaat's me!" than either "this is he" or "this is him" so the days of women saying the female equivalent of either are probably numbered?

Peter Reynolds April 30, 2014, 5:45pm

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This is she, if you want to say it correctly.
This is her, if you want to say it incorrectly.

Miss J April 30, 2014, 5:20pm

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The map is on Wikipedia under "treaty of trianon"

Note the area covered is "Greater Hungary" and includes parts of modern Slovakia as north as the Tatra mts, most of Romania, hunks of Croatia, Serbia, and a good slither of SW Ukraine. The red areas indicate Hungarian speaking places, and so on. Widely touted by Hungarian Nationalists - think the current PM, as well as the Rightists (Jobbik) - and still taught in Hungarian schools so the gripe lives on.

jayles February 27, 2014, 5:45pm

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@Jasper - I don't think it's likely to spill over into Poland unless things get very nasty. The Polish people were very strong supporters of the Orange revolution, however, and have a strong affinity with the people of Western Ukraine. Although it wasn't always like that; when Lviv / Lwów was part of Poland there was a lot of very nasty fighting between Poles and Ukrainian nationalists. Most of the Poles from Lwów went to Kraków after the war, I think.

@jayles - there were large communities of Poles in the west, both in villages and in Lwów, and presumably in the large aristocratic estates as well. There was a similar situation in Lithuania, with a large Polish population of Vilnius / Wilno, which was Polish territory until the war. But it was a bit like Hungary before Trianon. At one time Poland stretched to the Black Sea, but of course many of the people who lived on Polish territory weren't actually Poles, but Ukrainians, Lithuaninas, Tartars etc (not to mention the Jews and Germans who lived in current Polish territory. Polish borders are today more or less back to where they started, reflecting the early Poland of 1200 or so.

Do you have a link to that map

Warsaw Will February 27, 2014, 2:53pm

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Recently I met a Ukrainian family. The wife is of Polish Jewish extraction, as were a whole couple of villages where everybody had the same two Polish Jewish surnames. This family live in Odessa and speak Russian, as I gather is true of a large part of the population of Odessa.

Peter Reynolds February 27, 2014, 5:49am

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@Jasper Parts of western Ukraine were at one time part of Poland =- Lviv (or Lvow) for example was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939. Other bits were part of the (Austro) Hungarian Empire until the Treaty of Trianon around 1921.
Linguistically, "Ukrainian" used to slide off toward Polish/Slovak in the west, village by village. There was a survey of language use in Eastern Europe carrried out around 1920, which was supposedly used to determine the current borders, creating Romania, Czechoslovakia and so on.
Out in the Ukrainian countryside things stil tend to look like they did in 1950.....

jayles February 26, 2014, 8:47pm

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I'm not sure it is political correctness. It's closer to me acting like an a**hat.

@Peter Reynolds,

Still, a forum shouldn't be rabid.

@Warsaw Will,

You live in Poland right? I have been hearing about the Ukrainian revolt that's been happening. I'm not saying it's likely that it'll spill over but I am concerned about the proximity between Poland and Ukraine.


I think it's more of an increase in cynicism about people and a greater awareness of dangerous people in general.

Now, let's put this all behind us.

Jasper February 26, 2014, 4:10pm

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Amen brethren.
In an unguarded unthinking non-PC moment in the supermarket I automatically waved back to a small child instead of turning away PC-wise ... it's just not 1960 anymore. I have also noticed that "bitch" and "slut" have become highly offensive now whilst OMG is just commonplace. And nobody says "crikey" anymore.

jayles February 25, 2014, 5:38pm

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@Jasper - I'll certainly echo Brus's last paragraph and Peter's last comment. We all have our sillier moments (especially me when I get goaded into defending the indefensible), and your comments are usually very moderate and constructive.

What's more PITE has been rather barren lately, with days on end without comments for me to react to. We need everyone, old hands like yourself and newbies like Peter, who I notice is busy posting on other threads as well, so you don't seem to have put him off. :) :)

Warsaw Will February 25, 2014, 4:12pm

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Don't worry about it. I'm not worrying (and I have before on the odd occasions when I've genuinely fallen out with folk on other forums). On this occasion I felt it was more of a misunderstanding (that we were at cross purposes) than anything else. And of course we British do tend to feel our version of English is superior, so that may in fact have come across. ;-)

And certainly don't feel you have to refrain from posting because of me. This was the first time I had posted here (as far as I recall) and I did so after a Google search revealed this discussion. So I butted in without knowing anything about the mood of the forum. I may well have been a pain in the ..........

Peter Reynolds February 24, 2014, 3:07pm

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Oh dear, all this talk of 'bellicose' and 'unacceptable' and 'vulgar'. 'Inexcusable' and apologies all over the place. Not a clue as to what need there is for apologies in the preceding debate about the correctness of saying "This is she".
Is this something to do with this new thing they teach children about not being 'judgmental'? Can't make head nor tail of it myself. Makes no sense at all. I believe 'political correctness' comes into it somewhere, an American thing now but originating as one of Lenin's little jokes. (Bad news to study the law and end up becoming a judge, only not to be allowed to be judgmental!)
Calm down, children, and have another glass of wine, I say! Come back, Jasper, and post away, come on, do.

Brus February 24, 2014, 2:57pm

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@Warsaw Will,

Yes, you're right. By my second post, I defended my position, distorting it at that, for the sake of defending it. I will admit to that and be judged accordingly. I acted in a bellicose and outright vulgar manner.

@Peter Reynolds,

I apologize. My behavior was unacceptable and uncivil. I don't expect you to accept it, nor do I want you to, only for the fact that my behavior was inexcusable. I hope you will continue post here on Pain in the English, despite my vitriol.

I think I won't be posting on Pain in the English for awhile. My apologies to all here.

Jasper February 24, 2014, 12:43pm

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@Jasper - I really think you're making an interpretation I just don't see. Peter's 'offending' sentence was:

'The first time I heard "this is she" I thought the customer was being ironic because she was being asked if she was, say, Janet, by an unidentified caller'

I don't see any sense of superiority there at all. As Peter hadn't heard this expression being used before, he was puzzled, that's all. And even joy, who uses 'This is she' herself, far from taking umbrage, found Peter's observation interesting.

I hate to say it (because it really seems out of character), but I'm only getting a feeling of superiority from one person in this discussion: I quote - 'You don't have knowledge of formal grammar, do you?', ' I will not concede to my despisal of his ignorant judgment of another person.'

As regards 'whomever', its use seems to be on the increase:

Warsaw Will February 24, 2014, 11:29am

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Now I'm confused. I'm sorry I came across as superior. I don't think I was really comparing "this is she" "with "this is her" - I would be unlikely to hear either except when phoning USA. If I heard "this is her" I would think it sounded a bit awkward/clumsy (wouldn't make a grammatical judgement); whereas uninformed as I was to the frequency of its US usage when I first heard "this is she" (a good number of years ago), it sounded to my uninformed British ear as though the person was being ironic and trying to sound like someone from the 19th century or further back.

I'm familiar with "whomsoever" as I was brought up on the King James Bible and still use that Bible. In Britain "whosoever" has become "whoever", and dictionaries and Google testify that "whomever" does exist even in UK, but I've never heard anyone use it in speech. I'd be vaguely aware that to use "whoever" as an object would be ungrammatical, but would feel it was too stilted to replace it with "whomever".

Peter Reynolds February 24, 2014, 8:33am

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@Paul Reynolds,

There is nothing to correct in "It is she" vs. "It is I". They are two different personal pronouns. The only thing that could be seen as awkward is the use of the third person instead of the first person. Also not once have I criticized the use of "It is her/him/it/me/them" in comparison to "It is he/she/it/they/I". My issue was with what I interpreted as a slight twinge of superiority in your judgment. I pointed out formal grammar because of how you reacted to someone using 'she' instead of 'her'.

On 'whomever', the propagation of it might have increased since its use. This was typically found in the archaic form of 'whomsoever' and 'whosoever'.

I want to say your second-to-last paragraph seems like a generalization. I don't think prescriptivists are just Americans.

Jasper February 24, 2014, 7:49am

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@Jasper "ignorant judgment of another person" - only unaware of how some women on another continent speak - if a British woman spoke like that she'd have to be a very odd one - and I *have* had some genuinely odd reactions from US customers who thought I was a telemarketer, apparently a breed which the US is seriously more plagued by than here in UK (even here we get quite a few). In any case I have learned since then (and before participating on this forum) that "This is she" is not odd in USA.

@Joy How would the men in your life and background answer the same questions to which you answer "This is SHE"?

Actually I am somewhat aware of the pronoun issues since some 20 years ago I tried translating "It's me" into Dutch when speaking to my Dutch host's children (should be "Ik ben het", not "Het is mij" which makes no sense to a Dutch person). Of course correct English says "It is I" (as can be seen in the King James version of the Bible). Do you wonderfully correct people who insist on using "This is she" because of grammar also say "It is I" because of the same grammar? Or at least do you NOT say "It's me"? ;)

I learned a fair bit about grammar from learning Dutch, a language which is very similar to English, although English and Dutch have developed in different ways, even since the 16th/17th century English of the King James Bible.

Another instance of correct grammar being insisted on by Americans in actual common speech is the use of "whom" in a much wider variety of circumstances than we use it in Britain, even to the point of compound words such as "whomever". This too sounds stilted to a British ear, though some of us too are aware of the theoretical grammatical distinction.

On the other hand my Texan wife and in-laws frequently use adjectives in place of adverbs in speech (even though they know not to write like that), and use "a" instead of "an" before a vowel (though there again they probably wouldn't write like that.

Peter Reynolds February 24, 2014, 7:11am

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@Warsaw Will,

Yes, I was wrong about the anecdote. I will concede to that, but I will not concede to my despisal of his ignorant judgment of another person.


What my main issue is is stated in your own post (brackets for emphasis):

"Hence, I would like to proffer the hypothesis that the [unfamiliarity of the concept breeds contempt of the use]."

Jasper February 24, 2014, 4:54am

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Count me as one of the people who found Peter's post to be adding positive value to the discussion. Never before had I viewed the response "This is s/he" to be a feminine trait. Peter's post made me stop and think about it, and I did enjoy a little moment of revelation where I thought maybe his observation might be valid.

For what it's worth, I am female and have always, always, answered the telephone inquiry in question with "This is she." I have never considered it snobby, I don't do it in an effort to impress. I can only assure everyone that I am not from high breeding, nor do I aspire to be. I answer the phone that way because that's how my mother did it when I was a child. My grandmother did it, my aunts did it, and all of my friends did as well. I had never heard it in any other way I cared to emulate. Upon discovery of this thread years ago, I was positively flummoxed to learn that it is such a hotly debated issue.

Regardless of whether or not popular current usage ever manages to prove me "wrong" to use "This is she"; I think I would remain partial to its use because it is a definitive, unarguable statement that sets a tone of confidence for the conversation to follow. Other responses can too easily fall into a pit of being hesitant or unsure, setting a faltering tone for the coming conversation.

*"Is this Jane Smith?"
"Ah... yeah. That... would be me, I guess... What do you want?"*

Are you sure you know who you are?

In contrast, no one may argue with the confidence of
*"This is SHE!"*
Speak and be heard.

I think the discomfort many people have with correct usage in this case stems from the phenomenon that there is a mini-moment at the beginning of the conversation where the receiver is forced to think of himself in the third person. He may, after all, not be the person in question at all, which leads to the aforementioned hesitation in response. Many people's daily lives don't present much opportunity to view themselves from a detached perspective. Hence, I would like to proffer the hypothesis that the unfamiliarity of the concept breeds contempt of the use.

joy February 23, 2014, 5:33pm

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@Jasper - Well, I for one found Peter Reynold's 'anecdote', which was just a simple observation, quite interesting, especially as it was more or less repeating something I'd said - that this expression wasn't used by Brits when answering the phone.

Observations like this can add something, even if they are not strictly about the grammar point the questioner was asking about; it was something that was puzzling me, too - who would say 'this is she' when answering the phone. And in a any case, it's all English, after all - grist to the mill for PITE readers.

Warsaw Will February 23, 2014, 3:32pm

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Jasper February 23, 2014, 9:22am

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@Peter Reynolds,

Perhaps, it is endemic to females, but your knowledge of formal grammar is not irrelevant because you made a judgment: "I thought the customer was being ironic because she was being asked if she was, say, Janet". You thought she was being ironic because you lacked the knowledge that this is what a prescriptivist would consider the 'most correct form' to use. However, I can't speak for the female caller, so she might not be aware of grammar at all, and if that is the case, then you are somewhat right. Also 'this is she', unless the speech was inflected, is not a question; it's a simple statement.

Read more carefully: " ‘She’ is the nominative form of the word, so it cannot be used to describe somebody who is the object of a sentence (in this example, ‘this’ would be the subject)." The questioner asked whether 'This is she" is more grammatically correct than 'this is her' because they believed 'is' to be taking an object when in fact it takes subjective complement.

I apologize for offending you. I probably shouldn't have attacked you like that, but this sight has been getting extra traffic, and someone of the people who have commented recently have been less than desirable.

Jasper February 23, 2014, 3:48am

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Excuse me Jasper but this thread started with the sentence "A common example is the phrase “This is she.” used to answer a telephone."

I am not discussing the pros and cons of "This is she" and "This is her" just saying that (a) no-one says either in British English (ever) and definitely not "this is she" which would sound so weird that if you'd only ever heard one American say it you would have thought they were being sarcastic
(b) in my experience of speaking to US customers over the past 13 years I have never heard a man say either "This is he" or "This is him".

That is all. I am just saying, for the benefit of foreign learners of English, that this is an American female usage (we Brits answer these questions on the phone in a totally different way, as in my limited but not inconsiderable experience do American males).

So my knowledge of formal grammar is irrelevant. I am talking about my knowledge of usage. OK?

Peter Reynolds February 22, 2014, 6:26pm

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@Peter Reynolds,

You don't have knowledge of formal grammar, do you?

"This is she/he/it/I" is the formal form of "This is her/him/it/me". Your anecdotes are meaningless. It's not an Americanism nor a Britishism; it is formal grammar use.

Jasper February 22, 2014, 2:30pm

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In my experience of phoning US customers "This is she" is an Americanism spoken by women only - i.e. the corresponding "this is he" does not exist. In Britain we'd say "that's me", or "speaking", or even "I'm Peter". If the question was "Is that Peter" I would say "yes" or "yes, that's right". The first time I heard "this is she" I thought the customer was being ironic because she was being asked if she was, say, Janet, by an unidentified caller. But now I realise it is a perfectly normal answer from American women - no idea why they don't just say "Yes"!

Peter Reynolds February 22, 2014, 1:27pm

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P.S. - EFL teaching also recognises that English has different registers. What is appropriate in 'normal spoken English' is not always appropriate in very formal English.

Unfortunately some people think that formal language is the only correct language, and that basing ordinary grammar on 'normal spoken usage' is somehow dumbing down. Isn't that rather a case of the tail (the 'rules') wagging the dog (the language?. Do you really think that saying 'It is I' makes someone more intelligent (rather than simply sounding like a bit of a prat)?

Warsaw Will February 9, 2014, 4:51am

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@Nana - OK, I'd like to respond to this by commenting on Chris Haller's comment form way back on this thread. Chris sees two schools of thought on grammar - those who put the rules first, and those who put usage first, and says he's proud to be one of the first group.

I'm curious to know where Chris and you think grammar rules originally came from, if not from usage. The earliest English grammar books appeared in the late sixteenth century century and were purely observational - they looked at how English was used and tried to show it as a system. One of the most accessible is that of Ben Jonson - "The English Grammar" of 1640. It was Jonson who said "Custom is the most certain mistress of language".

Then along came the prescriptivists, who felt the need to tidy the language up a bit, either by aligning it more with Latin, making hard-and-fast rules from what had merely been majority use, or just making up rules according to their own whims.

At this point let's make it absolutely clear that the vast majority of English grammar is totally uncontroversial. I think we can all agree that a sentence like "If I will see him, I tell him" is ungrammatical. There would be nothing illogical in using a future form in both clauses, as for example happens in Polish. But our system of conditionals has developed through usage.Not surprisingly, as they are the only area where we still have grammatical case, pronouns represent the area where there is probably the greatest disagreement.

Generally recognised as the first prescriptivist is Robert Lowth. In his "A Short Introduction to English Grammar with Critical Notes", 1762, he took Shakespeare to task for writing "Who servest thou under" and "Who do you speak to". And prescriptivist grammarians have insisted on "whom" ever since. Yet as early as 1772, other grammarians, like Joseph Priestley (whose "The Rudiments of English Grammar" had originally appeared a year before Lowth's book) commented "Dr Lowth says that grammar requires us to say 'Whom do you think me to be'. But in conversation we always hear 'Who do you think me to be' ".

Priestley also wrote:

"All our grammarians say, that the nominative cases of pronouns ought to follow the verb substantive as well as precede it; yet many familiar forms of speech, and the example of some of our best writers, would lead us to make a contrary rule -, or, at least, would leave us at liberty to adopt which we liked best. ... Who is there? It is me. ... It is not me you are in love with. Addison. (It cannot be me. Swift. To that which once was there. Prior. There is but one man that she -can have, and that is me. Clarissa."

The problem comes when 'the rules' are completely out of kilter with standard educated practice. Suggesting that the norm is "Hi Mum, it is I", when only a tiny minority of educated speakers would say such a thing, isn't doing anyone any favours either - it is totally artificial. Which is why EFL learners are taught "it's me" - in other words, natural English. Back to the common sense of Priestly:

"But our grammarians appear to me to have acted precipitately in this business,
and to have taken a wrong method of fixing our language. This will never be effected by the arbitrary rules of any man, or body of men whatever; because these suppose the language actually fixed already, contrary to the real state of it: whereas a language can never be properly fixed, till all the varieties with which it is used, have been held forth to public view, and the general preference of certain forms have been declared, by the general practice afterwards.

Whenever I have mentioned any variety in the grammatical forms that are used to express the same thing, I have seldom scrupled to say which of them I prefer; but this is to be understood as nothing more than a conjecture, which time must confirm or refute."

And time has indeed confirmed that, even though the 'rule' may say that a copular verb is followed by a predicate nominative (or subject complement as we call it in EFL), most educated English speakers have a great reluctance to use nominative (subject) forms when they are not followed by a verb. It is simply not natural English. And natural English is far more important in my book than any arbitrary rules.

Warsaw Will February 9, 2014, 4:36am

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P.S. 'This is she/he.' She/He is this. Predicate nominative.

Nana February 9, 2014, 1:46am

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@Warsaw Will - I don't agree with everything you said, but gave you a thumbs up for the Hyacinth Bucket reference. :)

Grammar is important, and dumbing it down to 'normal spoken English' is not doing anyone any favours.

Nana February 9, 2014, 1:46am

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@TEAS grammar tutor - so I'm all the happier that I teach EFL and that exams like IELTS, FCE, CAE, CPE and TOEIC reflect normal spoken English, and certainly wouldn't penalise you for saying, for example, "it's me". A context formal enough to warrant 'It is I' would be very unlikely to come up in any of these exams. Neither would students be penalised for using 'who' in object position, unless it followed a preposition. I suppose TEAS is more directed at academic English, but why nurses need to use 'I' after a linking or copular verb beats me.

As for 'This is she / her / (your name) ' - I think that we Brits usually just say 'speaking' or 'so-and-so speaking' when answering the phone. Apart from a certain Hyacinth Bucket, of course, who answers the phone, "The Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking."

The only time we're likely to say 'This is ....' would be when we're calling somebody else, when obviously we would say neither 'she' nor 'her', but our name.

Warsaw Will February 8, 2014, 6:45pm

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If you will be taking a standardized test, such as TEAS, HESI, or NLN, you better know how to use the rules. Not knowing them, no matter how we speak in everyday life, could mean you can't pursue the career training you choose. Forget about them the day after you pass the test, but know them during that 30 minute period. In real life, simply say, "This is (your name)." It's correct by anyone's standards.

TEAS grammar tutor February 8, 2014, 3:08pm

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Nothing snobby about the Queen's English. If the 'Queen' part of the term confuses you, Mr. Quincy, you should know that in England the current royal family are thought of as newcomers and upstarts, or at least feel that way: there are many amusing quotes about the Queen speaking of certain of the nobility as "much too grand for the likes of us". Remember Queen Victoria spoke with a German accent, and George I could not speak English at all. Ever. Meanwhile the nobility includes families whose lineage stretches back to the Middle Ages.

Now, as for your "it is I" construction the clue is in French grammar and its labelling: "C'est moi" - 'ce' is the nominative subject, 'est' is the verb, and folk get stressed wondering what 'moi' might be, as it is nominative but it is not the subject, but the complement, and French uses the disjunctive pronoun 'moi', or 'toi' or 'lui' or whoever. The English form of this pronoun is similar to the accusative form: 'me, you, him, her, them' and so on. So we say "It's me" and that's why.

Have you met any English professors? You say the ones you've known can't communicate. The ones I've known communicated frightfully enthusiastically and well. That was long ago and far away. They raved most earnestly about literature, and showed little enthusiasm for grammar. Literature is not about grammar, and literary figures are not there to provide us with models of sound English sentence structure and grammatical forms, but about many things above and beyond this. I recall studying Chekhov as part of my A-level English many decades ago, but in fact the man penned his stuff in Russian, so we were in fact studying the drama form, not the language used. We had no need to read Russian to follow the plot of our studies.

So, Mr. Quincy, I have advised before and do so again, if you are ticked off for saying "it's me" then you must rise up, I say, to your full height, look your interlocutor in the eye, and say with hauteur, "I use the disjunctive pronoun, of course". So put that arrow in your quiver.

Brus October 19, 2013, 8:16pm

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As goofy pointed out no one ever points to a photograph of their childhood and says, "That's I!" It's ridiculous and any person who did that would be looked at with a rather odd expression... and rightly so.

Someone above proclaimed "Poorly formed language indicates poorly formed thought." However, thought is but one major purpose of language. One other major purpose of language is to communicate. I've known many great communicators who wouldn't touch your preapproved, prepackaged English with a space tether. The point is they are capable of conveying their meaning clearly and commanding respect through their communications better than any English professor I've ever known.

Stick that in your grammar text bible.

Until there is an truly objective scientific method for distinguishing proper language constructs I'll remain skeptical when ass-hats in conference rooms sit around deciding amongst themselves how I and everyone else should "properly form thoughts." Until then I'll continue to speak Americanese and leave the Queen's English to the snobs.

Someone above asked what "hobnobbery" had to do with this conversation. Not sure, but perhaps he meant hobnob, as in "a friendly, informal chat."

Mr. Quincy October 19, 2013, 7:25pm

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She is the person to whom you are speaking.
Therefore, I prefer ”this is she” as the most correctly constructed version of that response. Jm2c
What do I know? I'm in the Navy...we use a different language altogether (scuttlebutt, starboard, forecastle/fo'c'sle, etc.).

Lowmaks July 16, 2013, 8:47pm

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- C'est vous?
- Oui, c'est moi.
So, the French have a word for it: moi. It means me in short phrases, such as prepositional phrases ( avec moi, chez moi ...). They say it is a disjunctive pronoun. Well, they say that in French, of course, but the point is that we too have 'me' as a disjunctive pronoun. This is why "It's me" doesn't hurt when you hear it the way "She asked Bob and I to supper", etc., hurts, or "She's coming with Lucy and I".
If in doubt use me, if you are rebuked or sense that you are thought remiss for using it just say you are using it disjunctively and not to be such a pedant.

Brus July 16, 2013, 8:58am

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Very interesting discussion (hard to find anything on the web regarding this issue).
Once again, Wiktionary illustrates it best (in my opinion):

LSFR77 July 16, 2013, 6:18am

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I find it fascinating that an incomplete subjective conjuncture of the conjoined pronouns lacks a predicative subjugated adverb when used in response to a phone caller asking a commoner question "may I speak to Joon Park" and Joon replies "I is she". We all know this girl must have been drunking.

However, if Joon were to answer "who's axing", then one would assume that the only Latin this receptionist learned was not "suma cum laude or "carpe idiom" but "idioticus giganticus".

C'mon now peeps, we all know the correct way to answer the phone don't we?

Snobs trying to hard to appear edjumicated - this is she
Riff raff trying to buck formalities - this is her

The common punter -"Speaking"
let's keep it reals!

tandava July 2, 2013, 6:14am

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"This is she." - Technically correct. Formal, English standard usage

"This is her." - Technically correct. Informal, colloquial usage.

"Speaking." - Most correct. Best, unambiguous usage.

A. Linguist June 20, 2013, 4:30pm

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@Brus - My problem (one of them at least) is that neither 'I am me' nor 'I am myself' are natural English - nobody would ever say these, so I don't know why you'd want to use them to explain a grammatical point. 'This is me lying on the beach' or 'I'm really not feeling myself today' would give perfectly natural examples of 'me' and 'myself' as subject complements.

I'm afraid using artificial examples is one of my bugbears. There's one grammar website which, while explaining the passive, gives two examples - 'The dogs are loved by Suzanne' and 'The dogs are being loved by Suzanne', neither of which a native speaker would ever say. I write lots of grammar exercises myself, and make every effort to use natural examples. Otherwise it just confuses people.

Someone, like yourself, with a good knowledge of romance languages might find the term 'disjunctive pronoun' useful, but it doesn't seem to be a standard concept in English (except in explanations to French speakers, fro example). The entry for pronouns at Oxford Dictionaries online makes no mention of it, Collins has it but refers to French, and a linguistics book devoted to these very uses of pronouns has no reference to disjunctive pronouns at all. Those who use this term are transferring an idea from French and Italian, etc, which works for some things, but not others. And while the use of the disjunctive pronoun is mandatory in French, in English its use is frowned on by the traditionalists.

Warsaw Will May 31, 2013, 6:23am

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WW: 'I am me' sounds wrong because the subject and complement are the same person, so the reflexive form "I am myself", (you are yourself ... he is himself ...) are required.

Brus May 30, 2013, 7:20pm

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I must add that the disjunctive pronoun 'me .. us' is used as the complement of the verb 'be' and the Scottish examples I gave above demonstrate some examples of 'myself .. yourselves' employed in place of 'me .. you'. This does not mean that you can use it as the subject of 'be': you cannot say "Myself 'll be waiting for ye" or "Yourselves will be wantin' in, then?" for example.

My mother did hear some Glaswegian girls in the Second World War making this suggestion to some Polish soldiers:

"If youse yins'll teach us yins Polish us yins'll teach youse yins English".

So here is an example of "us" used as the subject. But despite what they said it isn't really standard English, is it now?

Glad to make a Polish connection there, Warsaw Will.

Brus May 30, 2013, 7:14pm

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@Brus - Perhaps 'This is me (in the photo)' or 'This is us'. But 'I am me'? Sounds like something from 'I am the Walrus'. :)

Your disjunctive pronoun theory is interesting, although I've never seen this term used in any standard English grammar book. Those few sources that I've found which talk about disjunctive pronouns in English only use it for expressions like 'It's me', or solitary 'Me', which are certainly not accepted in those prescriptive grammars that insist on 'It is I'.

But even if we accept the idea of disjunctive pronouns for things like 'It's me', surely 'with me' and 'with us' are different. Everyone, prescriptivist and descriptivist alike, agrees that prepositions should always be followed by an objective form - 'Between you and me' - we don't need any special rule to explain that. It might be the case in French - 'Viens avec moi' - but English isn't French, and we don't have separate pronouns forms like 'moi' and 'lui'. We only have subjective, objective and possessive forms for pronouns.

Another thing worth noting is that when it is used, the subjective form is usually used without contractions - 'It is I', whereas the objective form is normally used with contractions, 'It's me', suggesting that the difference between the two is one of register - both are correct, but the former is rather formal. I might not use 'It is I', but I can't say it's incorrect. In French, on the other hand, 'C'est Je' is definitely not correct; you have no choice. This why 'I hae me doots' about extending this this idea of disjunctive pronouns to English.

Warsaw Will May 30, 2013, 7:04pm

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@P - I think you just answered your own question. But as some people have suggested that the phone example doesn't happen that often, I hope you don't mind if I rephrase your question. If somebody accused your Standard-English-speaking pair A and B of doing something, would they be more likely to say, in informal spoken language, 'It wasn't us' or 'It wasn't we'? I'd go for 'us', myself.

Warsaw Will May 30, 2013, 5:59pm

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It is us, P.

'Us' is the disjunctive form of the first person plural personal pronoun (I, me singular, we, us plural) for use as the complement (after verb to be, so: I am me) and prepositions (with me, with us, etc).
There is a very ugly trend today to use the reflexive form 'myself' in place of the straightforward "I, me". So (heard on phone): "Myself and Sarah 'll see you at the pub" leading I suppose to - "Myself am at the pub now, Sarah is late".
Just stick to disjunctive and you won't go wrong.

In Scotland you are greeted with "Oh! It's yourself! You'll have had your tea." So regional variations, rich in colour and tone, entertain us too. Your A and B people had better have had their tea too, before visiting C, if he is a Scot, and who will say in a suspicious tone "It's yourselves, then!" and they must say "Aye, it's ourselves, aye, but we could do with a wee dram".

Brus May 30, 2013, 4:59pm

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So if two people, say A and B visit someone, say C, and ring the doorbell, and C asks, "Is it A and B?", then what do A and B reply with - It is us, or it is we?

Going by the correct Grammatical usage as put forth by some people here in the case of ' this is she', the answer should be 'it is we'. However, it does not sound right. Opinions?

P May 30, 2013, 4:07pm

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@Brus - demotic credentials? Is that something like street cred?

Seriously though, I'm glad you accept "Who wants to go? Not me!" and "She is taller than me."

I like your point about a disjunctive pronoun, but I'm not sure you can really say "me" is the equivalent of "moi", as we don't have a disjunctive pronoun in English. But "It's me" certainly sounds more natural in English.

Back to demotic credentials. Isn't it more to do with register than social status. To my friends at work, I might well say "Me and Dave are going to the pub", but to someone I want to impress or be more formal with, I'd say "David and I are going to the pub". But you might have a bit of a point in that in Britain, at least, language is "democratising". The use of the word "Mate" as a greeting, for example, which used to be exclusively working class, is pretty classless nowadays. What I do find fascinating is that it's almost always "Me and Dave" or "David and I", but hardly ever "Dave and me" or "I and David".

As I've probably said before, pronouns are the last area of English to have inflections, so it's hardly surprising if their use is still in a bit of a flux. We only have to look at "who/whom".

Warsaw Will May 14, 2013, 2:57pm

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Taking some examples from many years ago of this stuff, may I suggest a lesson from French, where the word for "I" which is "Je" when it is the subject, and "me" when it is the object, is "moi" when it is used after prepositions (with me = avec moi", after me = apres moi - can't do accents on keyboard) and disjunctively with the complement of 'be', as we say "It's me" = "C'est moi". The corresponding English word for "moi" is "me", and that is what all the confusion has been about, as it is the same as the accusative word for "me" used for the object of the verb (He sees me = Il me voit). So "him" "her", "them" and "me" and "us" can be i) obect or ii) disjunctive. In case of doubt, use one of these, and claim it is disjunctive; you'll probably get away with it.

So "Me and my friend are going out." is ungrammatical, although it establishes the speaker's demotic credentials, because 'me' is the subject, so should be 'I' so correctly "My friend and I ..." - subject of "are going ...".

"Who wants to go? Not me!" Fair enough - just say it's disjunctive, for emphasis, "pas moi!"

"She is taller than me." Fair enough. Disjunctive, "moi" in French. Used in comparative phrases as the complement with 'than'. Also "taller than I" is correct if explained with reference to ellipsis: "taller than I (am)." But that is a bit far-fetched.

Brus May 14, 2013, 12:45pm

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This reply to the telephone always intrigues me, as the obvious course of the chat should be, but never is:

#caller - "Good morning, is this Jane Smith?"

# Jane Smith - "No way! I am. You're someone else."

Brus May 14, 2013, 12:17pm

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Can I speak to Sarah?
(Wait for caller to start speaking to Sarah.)

Simple May 13, 2013, 11:38am

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I agree with the last comment (Roar) that the most logical way to answer is to say 'That's me'. While either 'she' or 'her', or both, may be correct grammatically, its strange to refer to yourself that way. I always thought 'me' is how you refer to yourself and 'she' or 'her' are the way other people refer to you. If someone asks 'who's that' you say 'its me'. Whether you are answering that you are the one speaking or whether you are equating yourself with who the caller is asking for, is a moot point. Because as the one answering you can interpret the question as you like.

Gee January 29, 2013, 5:35am

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I think saying "C'est Moi!" is really better. Just speaking another language and do away with these pesky things

Roar December 18, 2012, 6:14am

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Two thoughts were brought to mind by this discussion:

1. There seem to be two schools of thought about grammar in general. One school puts the rules first and usage second; the other considers usage paramount and feels rules should always submit to common usage, which may be the simplest way of conveying a simple idea to another.

The people in the first group often consider those in the second group uneducated boors, and the second group frequently considers the first group to be out of touch snobs.

While I proudly consider myself part of the first group, I don't consider myself a snob; I simply love the beauty, subtlety, music and magic of language, and marvel in its form. I revel in finding the perfect word or case or combination to convey a particular shade of meaning. If someone considers language nothing more than a blunt tool for expressing basic thoughts, that is their prerogative, and I respect that. I happen to share their belief that getting your thought across is the most important thing, so I will subtly filter my speech, depending on whom I'm speaking with, and will gladly break grammatical rules if it helps to express a thought. That is one of the beauties of language; it can be as flexible as the speaker.

Having said that, I confess I do rue the erosion of simple, basic rules of grammar, which often does have the effect of watering down the subtlety of communication. For example, the case of Past Perfect seems to be rapidly becoming archaic. Many English speakers, particularly from the South, use the Past Tense (Preterite) conjugation when using "had" before the verb (Past Perfect tense). I know many educated speakers, particularly from the South, who will blithely say "I had WENT to the store". When asked about this, the most common reply is "But I had GONE to the store just SOUNDS wrong". This brings me to my second point.

2. I am a musician, and language, like music, was played (spoken) before the rules were codified, not the other way around. Unlike music though, language is not based on the immutable laws of physics (sound vibrations). The laws of music theory have no exceptions, any more than the Sun sets in the east sometimes. Language, however, is simply a product of our human minds, and so is subjective and constantly changing. The English we speak today is quite different from the English spoken 200 years ago, in the post-revolutionary US, and vastly different from that spoken 500 years ago, around Shakespeare's time. This change occurred, not in the grammar books, but on the street. This is a hard fact for many grammarians to accept, witness the Académie Française, which attempts to keep the French language "pure". This is a joke; you cannot "regulate" language. It has a life of its own, and will morph and evolve regardless of what any institution tries to impose upon it.

By definition, the way that a language evolves is by common usage, which will break whichever "rules" it wants, and then some future grammarian will come along and codify the new rules. You know a rule is archaic when a majority of native speakers, upon hearing an example of the old rule declare: "It just SOUNDS wrong".

This is simply a fact of grammatical life; a kind of "mob rule", if you will. It's up to each of us to find our own comfortable position on the continuum between the snobs and the mobs!

Chris Haller October 16, 2012, 11:38am

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This is by far the most interesting bunch of answers to a supposedly simple question.

My grandma never bothered with "this is she/her" when someone called and asked if Mrs Nolan was there or if they may/can speak to Mrs Nolan. Her reply, after a slight pause was always: "she passed away last night".

ghiaso-miyaso September 5, 2012, 9:07am

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#caller - "Good morning, is this Jane Smith?" / "Can I please speak with Ms Smith?"

# Jane Smith - "Speaking."

Problem solved, thank you very much.
I can't believe this argument has gone on for so long.

Yes there's a difference between what people speak now and sounds acceptable, and what the rules say sounded acceptable once. One of the joys of English is that it is fluid and not so rigid and stuck behind grammar rules... see split infinitives and prepositions on the end of sentences, and various others (probably all with posts as long as this one).

Say what you want on the phone, either you'll sound normal, or pretentious, or dumb depending on what side of this argument the other person believes in... either way, it shouldn't cause a problem.

Thredder September 4, 2012, 1:21am

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My minor was in English 40 years ago and I've noticed since then that the language has changed somewhat since Microsoft's Clippy came into being. But it seems to me you would use she only in that phone situation. If someone asked the question, "who is the best player on the side?" you should answer, "Number 14.". Pronouns cause too many problems with ambiguity. Besides, saying, "it is her" would require pointing at someone and my Mom told me you were not supposed to point.

Jock Ellis September 3, 2012, 3:28pm

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Those who wish to sound well-educated and believe supposed "correct English" takes priority over effective (and/or aurally pleasing) communication, please note that there are plenty of people who think you sound pretentious/snobby/hypercorrective/anal. So while you may think you are showing off your education, you are instead revealing a tedious low-minded obsession with superficial shibboleths, like a morbidly obese trailer mom submitting her pre-K daughter to beauty pageants.

Truculent Youth August 20, 2012, 1:51pm

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As has been said above, the verb 'be' is a copular or linking verb, so doesn't take an object, but what is variously called a subject complement or subject predicate, just as they take predicative adjectives rather than adverbs - she is pretty, but she sings prettily.

In theory that means they should take subject form pronouns - I, he, she etc. But hardly anyone speaks like that, if indeed they ever did. We seem to be very reluctant to use subject pronouns when they are not followed by a verb. 'Hi Mum, it's me' is normal standard English. 'Hi Mum, it is I' would be hopelessly formal. And notice that 'it's I' just wouldn't work.

It's the same with non-linking verbs - 'Who said that?' - 'Not me'. - Nobody would say 'Not I' - well, hardly anybody. And if we find 'not me' too informal there's a neutral version - 'I didn't'

The problem is that some people seem to think that formal English is standard English when most people rarely use it. As a prominent linguist said recently on Language Log - 'Informal is normal'

If anyone's interested I've written about this (for foreign learners) at:

Warsaw Will August 13, 2012, 11:31am

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this was super fun to read as a clueless individual - and i thought it was going to be a simple google search. i LOVE that this started in 2006, here i am in 2012 and it looks like it will hopefully never end. however, this is where i stopped reading, appropriately made me chuckle:

"Reality Dr. (unregistered) September 10, 2007, 6:04pm
Reality Check #1:
This discussion has been going on for a YEAR! Better usage of time people? Simple solution: use something you know to be correct, do not risk sounding like an idiot (because either usage of she/her can have that result).

Reality Check #2:
Language is constantly evolving, from having a lot of vitality to near death (defend Latin all you want, 99% of the world does not really care). Therefore, this conversation will become irrelevant when the Chinese people take over the world and everybody will have to speak Cantonese or Mandarin.

Reality Check #3:
I already spent too much time on this inconsequential topic (compared to the big picture), so this will be my first and last post!

Much Love and Peach for All."

lovely August 13, 2012, 12:06am

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"This" is the subject. "She" is what we use as the subject. "Her" is what we would use as a direct object. Since this is placed where the direct object would be, the proper address would be "This is her," since "her" is the direct object and not the subject.

AHProctor July 12, 2012, 4:16pm

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Or maybe we are just concerned about our knowledge and the possibility that some people are taught wrong about the english grammar which is used all the time and the fact that english grammar exams exist Ed22SAS you can't be sure about other people's intentions when they're not directly said and your post doesn't help anyone and therefore useless. I'm not sure why you're here when you don't intend to learn from these arguments that you read.

zyedaph May 17, 2012, 8:44am

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There is no accusative form in English; you meant "objective". Not the same thing.

And the only "true" nominative forms occur only as a tiny corpus of pronouns: I, he, she, we, they and who - if you are one of those who still use "whom".

JJMBallantyne May 16, 2012, 7:13am

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I thought I, She, He, We, They are used as subjects and Her, Him, Her, Them, Us are used as objects (not sure if object is the term)
ex: It's me. - in this sentence the subject is It and the sentence is saying that It is Me or in another case like in the sentence This is a pen, This is equal to It and pen is equal to me.
Correct sentences for me:
She and I are going out. (subject:She and I object:going out)
It is between her and me. (subject:It object:her and me)
I am her. (subject:I object:her)

Her can be used in more than one way right? Not just for possession. Why don't other people know that?! Isn't that weird? Her can be an object too aside from using it for possession (her ball, her hand, etc.). Ex: I told her. (subject:I object:her)

And you can't just interchange the subject and object in the sentence. Ex: "It is me." cannot be "Me is it." To make the sentence this way, it will be "I am it." So you can't use that "interchange" thing as a basis for making a rule like "She is me." is wrong because "Me is she." is wrong, because we all know that the first sentence is right and the 2nd is wrong.
"This is her." is not wrong. I've read a post saying that it is wrong because when you interchange the nouns, it will be "Her is this."! What?! When you interchange the nouns in "This is her.", it will be "She is this." (meaning: she is this person right here) "She" is used as a subject and when it becomes an object, it becomes "Her". Get it?

You are smarter than I is different from You are smarter than I am and it's not a short version. If you're going to use the first sentence, it should be You are smarter than me. In You are smarter than I am, "I am" refers to how smart the person referred to is. It is not the same as the "I am" in the sentence "I am a person". which is the subject in this case and not the object.

I've heard characters in tv and movies use "This is she." for me, this is not grammatically correct because there is no rule that can say that it is correct. Maybe some people are just used to saying it or heard it from supposedly smart people and trusted them right away. It's not wrong to use it as long as other people understand, but, you shouldn't use it in arguments like this.

zyedaph May 16, 2012, 5:05am

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"Shy and tired-eyed am I today."
-Laura Marling

It is this line she wrote after the eyes that she called hers gazed upon all posts written by those who typed them on the page that you, I and we are all reading.

buddyglass May 15, 2012, 9:53am

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@Ed22SAS Or she?! x

Sorryihadto April 25, 2012, 5:28am

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I am something of a compulsive reader, so I have read every entry. I should have gone to bed long ago instead of bearing witness to people who love to match pedantic wits with each other: a sure sign of an inferiority complex. All I can say is 'Woe is I'

Ed22SAS February 27, 2012, 3:43am

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I think you should just avoid the situation entirely by pretending to be someone else and giving the phone to "her"...maybe even do an have to make life interesting somehow...

SamiPajamies February 2, 2012, 7:58pm

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So say we all!

Adama January 18, 2012, 1:19pm

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We look at the contrast between nominative and accusative cases. [Nominative =he/she; Accusative=him/her] Here we find a considerable amount of variation and instability in the [English]system. There are a number of constructions where the nominative is asociated with formal style and the accusative being strongly preferred in informal speech and writing. Because of the tendency of older prescriptive grammar texts to accept only formative style as "grammatically correct", there has been a tradition of criticising the accusative alternants, and the stigmatism attaching to such accusatives has given rise to a certain amount of hypercorrection, with nominatives being used in constructions where the traditional rules call for an accusative. There is ONLY one function where the nominative case appears to the exclusion of the accusative, irrespective of style level: as the subject of a finite clause. Compare:

I made up some new curtains(correct) versus Me made up some new curtains (Incorrect)
I think he is mad (correct) versus I think him is mad (Incorrect)

Constructions where both the nominative and accusative forms are in alternation:

Yes it is she. (correct nominative form) versus Yes it is her (correct accusative form)
This is he. These are they. (correct nominative form) versus This is him. These are them. (correct accusative form)
It is I who loves you (correct nominative form) versus It is me who loves you (correct accusative form)
The only one who objected was I. (correct nominative form) versus The only one who objected was me. (correct accusative form)
This one here is I at the age of 12. (Incorrect nominative form) versus This one here is me at the age of 12. (correct accusative form)

The nominative forms are considered very formal-and in response to the question, "Who's there?" the nominative version "It is I" would be widely perceived as pedantic compared with "It is me."

John Abraham December 11, 2011, 6:08am

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I was taught that the "is" between the words is an equals sign, meaning both words have to be in the same tense. If "this" is present tense, then "she" would be present tense. Also the two words will interchange. This is she and She is this. I say, This is she, and wouldn' be caught dead turning it around to say Her is this.

mac November 7, 2011, 12:09pm

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"This is her," is not wrong. Only annoying pedants think it is wrong. Language is not a logical entity; anyone who's ever learned a foreign language will be quick to tell you that. (Russians, for example, say "We and the wife are going to the movies.")

It's not even something English speakers made up; it's a construction we took from French, which is often exalted as a "better" language than English by English speakers. The famous French phrase "C'est moi" (lit. "It's me") is a perfect example. And yes, for "This is him" or "This is he," French speakers do say "C'est lui" instead of "C'est il." (German, meanwhile, avoids the whole fiasco by placing the subject in the front, as in "Ich bin's," lit. "I'm it.")

In short: more annoying pedantry from the anti-change lobby who don't understand how language works.

Evan October 26, 2011, 1:33pm

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Wow, little did I know when I first started reading these comments, that they would still be going FIVE years since the very first...!

Okay, to me?
Grammatically, there can only be one absolutely correct way of phrasing it, and that would be "This is she". Grammar is a set of rules, admittedly some of it might be archaic and sound awkward due to linguistic drift, but the rules are pretty absolute. Whether you agree with the rule or not is a linguistic issue, not a grammatical one.

Language, however, now that is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. Linguistically, either is 'correct', or rather, nothing is incorrect, as language does indeed evolve.

Or at least, that is how I choose to understand this "debate". Oh, and if I had to choose, I would say "This is he", although more often than not, I preempt the question by answering the phone simply with "Hello, Jonathan."

Jonathan C October 20, 2011, 12:58am

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I use she and I. "This is she" when answering the phone, or " this is I" or "it is I" as well. I have children of school age that I want to go to college, I want them to go far in life. I try to prevent them from using slang, especially today's slang which is just horrible, because as they grow older and go on interviews and go into the business world, I want them to sound intelligent and for them to stand out. I do not think using proper English is snobbery, but I do think it might be becoming a lost art.

Roz October 5, 2011, 4:53pm

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When answering it would be simple and correct to say:

"May I speak to Sarah Sue?"
"I am Sarah Sue."
One, therefore, would not have to worry about the correct of she or her.

Bess August 27, 2011, 3:52pm

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Wow, this is quite a thread! This discussion started with the proper way to answer a phone when saying "This is she/her." Is there something special about the word "this"? For example, is there anyone who would claim that the following is correct?

"Who is Jane?"
"That is she."

Can we all agree that that question is more properly answered "That is her"? Why, then, does it become an issue when you are referring to yourself with "this"? The two cases seem identical to me.

If these cases are different, why are they? If they are the same, then would anyone argue that the rules of copulative verbs and nominative cases and such would indicate that, when pointing out another person, one should say "That is she"?

scrumpy7 August 23, 2011, 9:25am

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I am a native Polish speaker. In my native language it wouldn't make much sense to answer the phone by saying either "this is she' or "this is her". Also, I don't believe this phrase was meant to be a short version of "This is she speaking" (or "This is her speaking") as is suggesting in the original post since the correct expression conveying the implied meaning is simply "She is speaking" (and not "Her is speaking" btw). I think that "She is speaking" or simply saying "This is 'insert your name' " is the most grammatically correct way to reply to the caller when answering your phone. However, the expression in question is a very common way to answer the phone in modern English. I use it myself and believe the "This is she" version to be correct. I'll attempt to explain why below. What is present in my native language, was originally present in Old English and has been lost over time in the modern English is the presence of grammatical case. Modern English seems to utilize only 3 forms of grammatical case while Old English and many other modern languages use more than 3 -
When a person answers the phone, whether they (not them) are trying to say that they are speaking or they (again - not them) are trying to equate themselves to the person the caller is asking for they are communicating in the nominative (subjective) case and hence "This is she" is the accurate version. If we were to debate phrases in other than nominative case the answer would probably require some more analysis since for example the modern English case of objective ("her") could correspond to either the accusative, dative or ablative case however there is no doubt that we are debating a nominative/subjective case.

Jabol August 2, 2011, 10:36pm

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"Wow, I wonder if the original poster ever thought their question would trigger a five year debate of the topic."

You've got that right!

My suggestion to all? "This is her" is fine.

Now, get over it.

JJMBallantyne July 29, 2011, 9:58am

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So, if somebody asks me on the phone: "Can I speak to...?" which one is the proper answer: "This is she" or maybe "This is her"?

Em July 26, 2011, 7:17am

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this subject annoys me. I was taught in 2nd grade that "this is she" is correct and since second grade it is what I have used. People around me use "this is she" I have heard people say "this is her" but mostly at gas stations. Just because some people think they can alter a language with poor usage doesn't mean it SHOULD be altered. I am not perfect but if I was speaking incorrectly and sounded like an idiot I would hope someone would tell me. I would also remind you that other countries speak English, and would be offended at your arrogance to suggest that simply out of American laziness we should change a grammatical rule.

stella July 19, 2011, 2:56pm

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Wow, I wonder if the original poster ever thought their question would trigger a five year debate of the topic.

joy June 20, 2011, 8:15pm

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I have been studying Spanish off and on for years but never quite got the hang of it untill I finally figured out how to properly use direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns. I wonder if this is the key to learning other languages.

Sheldon E Shore April 19, 2011, 4:21am

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Yes     No