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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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Not just me who thinks... or Not just me who think... or Not just I who think... or Not just I who thinks...

There are two questions associated with this. The first one is: Should it be “Not just I who think...” not “Not just me who think...”?

The second question is: Should the subject be considered singular or plural in this case? That is, should it be “Not just I who thinks...” or “Not just I who think...”? After all, if it is not just just me (or I?), there are other people, which makes it plural.

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isn't it "not just me who thinks" instead of "not just me who think"
taken into consideration that the word after "who" should end with 's'


*english is not my native language so I would like to find out the answer for this

contributor Sep-01-2012

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For the first, well, if we add "Is it" to "Not just me who thinks", then, in a formal setting, yes to "I". In an informal setting, "me" is fine.

In the second, which I'm not too sue about, it's not really plurality but the verb that agrees with they different personal pronouns ([singular] I think, you think, he/she/it thinks, [plural] we think, you think, they think). Furthermore, the subject-verb agreement is tricky because who agrees with its antecedent "I"; however, the oddity of the construction makes me vote for "thinks".

The whole sentence is nauseating.

Jasper Sep-01-2012

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I think Jasper is spot on for the first part, although the 'I' version sounds very stilted to me. In Google Books there are slightly more occurrences of 'is it only I who' than 'is it only me who'. You could perhaps avoid the problem by saying:

'Am I the only person who thinks ...?'

He's also right in the second point, it's about agreement rather than singular or plural. It seems to me that relative 'who' always has to take a verb in the 3rd person, either singular or plural, whatever the antecedent.

Is it only me who thinks like this. (definitely NOT 'think')
Am I the only person who thinks ... ? (definitely NOT 'think')
Am I the only person who is going to do anything about this? (definitely NOT 'am going')
Is it you who has been saying these things about me? (NOT 'have been' if talking to one person)

I have no grammatical justification for this, only what 'sounds right'. I imagine what is happening is that the personal pronoun + 'who' is really standing in for 'the person who'.

Warsaw Will Sep-02-2012

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Sorry, forget the examples with 'person' - that's 3rd person singular any way. I was getting the antecedent confused with the subject. I should have said: Is it only me who is going to do anything about this? (definitely NOT 'am going')

Warsaw Will Sep-02-2012

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Sorry, me again, but I have just found this in Practical English Usage, by Michael Swan:

A different kind of first- and second-person reference is common in the relative clauses of cleft sentences. However, the verb is usually third-person, especially in an informal style - "It's me that's responsible for the organisation." (more formal - 'It is I who am responsible ...)
'You're the one that knows where to go'. (NOT the one that know ...)

Warsaw Will Sep-11-2012

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Warsaw Will,

Could you provide a link to your find?

Jasper Sep-11-2012

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I'm new here and apologize in advance if I break any citing rules that I may not be aware of, but I love the concept of the site!

Even though it may sound stilted, as 'I' usually does when used outside of its more common usage (especially when used improperly in an objective case), it seems most would agree that 'I' is the proper pronoun here.

Normally when I'm faced with a question on pronoun usage in a gray area, I rearrange or rephrase the sentence so that it has the exact same meaning. In this case, I would think of it as, "I am not the only person who..."

As for the conjugation of think vs. thinks, since 'I' exists in the phrase, 'think' may be given some audience, but 'only person' is the one that is doing the thinking - not 'I.' I tend to lean toward rules that are similar to prepositional phrases in cases like this.

Take this example:

(1) "I am the only one in the entire group that [think/s] we should go who [am/is] of a different opinion." In this sentence, 'I' is an entity, 'only one' is an entity, and 'the entire group that [think/s] we should go' is an entity. If the sentence read,
(2) "I am the only one in entire group who [want/s] to go and [think/s] I should get more say in the matter," then 'entire group' is one entity, 'I' is one entity, and 'only one' is one entity.

The difference is slight, and I have a personal rule that the word, 'that' links ideas into one entity while 'who' does not. This is more of a spoken/felt rule than a hard rule - I'm not sure there are any in English these days.

Back to the two examples, which entity is of a different opinion? I would break it down as follows:
In (1), the entity 'only one' is the entity that 'is of a different opinion'
In (1), the entity 'entire group' is a child entity (linked together with the word, 'that') of entity 'entire group that [think/s] we should go' and it modifies think, so it would be conjugated as 'thinks.'
In (2), the entity 'entire group' does not modify 'wants,' as I would say that 'who' is breaking out of the prepositional phrase, and now 'wants' needs to step back up the stack to look for a modifying pronoun - 'only one.'
In (2), the verb 'think' would be conjugated exactly the same as 'want,' because the same entity is carrying out the action - only one.

I apologize in advance for the explanation and if it may seem subjective or if the syntax is wrong - I'm not sure how to use italics, which would greatly help explaining when using words as words.

When I refer to an entity, I use that term because classic English grammar doesn't really give me a name for what I'm trying to express, and I want a more general term (and don't want to call it a "thing"). Ambiguity would be greatly reduced if we did have hard and fast rules like "that," vs. "who," but we all know there are two sides to every argument on similar rules, so that's what this forum is for, eh?

Cymric Sep-12-2012

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In all that mess, I forgot to post on the actual question. My verdict would be,

"Not just I [the person] who thinks"

'Thinks' is modified by the implied entity - 'the person.' 'The person' comes from 'people' which is the implied group that must be assumed due to the use of the phrase 'not just.' There must be more than one if it is not just I who thinks a certain thing.

Cymric Sep-12-2012

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Hi Jasper, maybe just. It's in Google Books, but not much of it is available - if you put this into your address bar, you should be able to see just enough.,%20the%20verb%20is%20usually%20third-person,%20especially%20in%20an%20informal%20style
(the inverted commas are important!)

Or you can google Michael Swan, Practical English Usage, go to Google Books and enter the "However ..." stuff in the search box (in inverted commas). It's also on Amazon, but unfortunately it's not playing ball. I have the Second Edition 1995 in front of me, where it's on p 495, in a section on 'relatives - advanced points' - 5 agreement of person.

I don't know if you know this book, but it is just about the 'bible' for many British EFL teachers like me. Wikipedia calls it 'a standard reference book aimed at foreign learners of English and their teachers', although I imagine it's used more by teachers than learners.

Warsaw Will Sep-12-2012

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Hey, Warsaw Will,

Would you mind helping me this problem:

"So that's (who/whom) he's looking for"?

I got a new book and was searching around for the same thing you got from your book ('I who am') to no avail. But I found this sentence, in Nominal Relative Clauses, off putting because I thought it would be whom; however, it said who acted as a subjective complement.


Jasper Oct-01-2012

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Hi Jasper,

Tricky one, in one way, but not so much in another. Just in case anyone's not familiar with subject complements, they are what follows a linking verb like 'be' or 'become' where other verbs have a direct object, or an adjective where other verbs have an adverbial. For example:

She likes her doctor - her doctor - direct object
She is/is becoming a doctor - a doctor - subject complement
She plays very badly - very badly - adverbial
She is highly gifted - highly gifted - adjectival subject complement

In your example I would say that the whole nominal clause - who he's looking for - is functioning as the subject complement here, not just 'who'. But 'who' is also the object of looking for, which I think is why you want to say whom. So which takes more weight?

I don't know the theoretical answer. But in a section on nominal relative clauses in Longman's Grammar and Vocabulary for CAE and CPE (Advanced and Proficiency exams) one of their example sentences is - 'Bernadette? That's not who I thought you had invited'.

And looking at a blog post I wrote about nominal relative clauses, I notice that I used an example sentence - Here's a list of who I've invited so far - Two things possibly suggest this 'should be' whom - it's the object of a preposition, and the object of invited - but for me whom here simply wouldn't sound natural English. In TEFL we teach that you only need whom after a preposition, but as you can see in that example, even that may not be totally true. And again in this second example, it is not really who that is the object of the preposition, but the whole nominal relative clause - who I've invited so far

Actually I've just discovered that (unknowingly of course) I more or less ripped off that last sentence from another grammar book - Advanced Grammar in Use, which has the example sentence - Can you give me a list of who's been invited.

In a nominal relative clause, the relative pronoun is doing a double job, it is standing in for a noun as well as being a relative pronoun - so 'what' means the thing(s) that and 'who' really means the person/people that, and as far as I can see, whom is simply not used in nominal relatives, but I can't find any reference to back me up on that.

Actually whom isn't used that much in adjectival relatives either: in defining (restrictive) relatives we can leave out the object pronoun altogether. Anyway, if like me (and according to my TEFL books, a lot of other people), you try and avoid whom unless it's absolutely necessary, then the problem doesn't really arise. Why do we do that? Because for many of us it sounds stilted and rather old-fashioned. Who is usually more natural.

Warsaw Will Oct-01-2012

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Thanks Warsaw Will,

I believe that, when in a nominal clause, the case of who/whom is based (when it's an object, preposition, or, in this instance, a subjective complement) on the internal structure of the clause but the opposite so for as subject in nominal clause. Thanks for clearing it up. And also thanks for the link that you provided for my previous question.

Jasper Oct-01-2012

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The usage is "it's not just me who ... "

This goes back to the the "it's me" or "it's I" controversy. Arguments has been put forth to support both so it hinges on where you fall in that debate. However, in usage, "it's me" is king:

As for the verb, here, it is "thinks" ... It's not just me who thinks ...
However, one can say ... It's not just us who think ...

It's best not to wrap yourself around the axle about it ... Learn them as set phrases.

AnWulf Oct-01-2012

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In subjective complement forms: She is Mary= Mary is She. So by extrapolating that method: So that's who he is looking for = so who he's looking for is that. By taking this nonsensical statement into account, it makes the clause a subject complement and can be changed to:

(So) Whomever he is looking for is that (person/guy)= (the person) (whom he is looking for) is that (person)/[she/he/they/etc.].

This of course is only dealing only with formal settings. So like you (Warsaw Will) said, the whole nominal/noun clause functions as the subject complement because it is a double use, which, when placed in the definitive subject position of the sentence, becomes whomever (the person whom). Again thank you for all your help Warsaw Will.

Jasper Oct-01-2012

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Oops, in the example (center): (that person)/(she/he/they/etc.).

Jasper Oct-01-2012

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Who = he/she or them.
I who = visualization of a group of two or more individuals where we are referring to a single person ( he/she).
We who = visualization of several groups of individuals where we are referring to a single group.
I who thinks = he/she thinks.
We who think = they think.

"Not just I/me who thinks..." is correct.
"Not just I/me whom thinks..." is also correct.

Whom is the formal way of saying who.

Example: To whom it may concern.

Think of math.


X represents an unknown number (same goes for "y" and "z").
Who represents an unknown person or persons other than ourselves.

Agustin Oct-07-2012

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@Jasper - whomever is an interesting one as it seems to be having a bit of a revival. I don't think I've ever heard this used in British English. And a lot of the modern usage seems to be hypercorrection. People think it sounds 'better', 'more correct', even when using it for the subject. Just as Agustin seems to think whom is the formal version of who, which of course it isn't.

@Agustin - your example of "Not just I/me whom thinks..." is definitely not correct, even for a purist on the one hand, or a whom agnostic like me on the other. The relative pronoun here is the subject of 'thinks' - and whom is never used for the subject, only for the object. But I can see how you might get this impression because people are forever being corrected for not using whom in the correct place, when it really is only optional nowadays.

Warsaw Will Oct-07-2012

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Yes, I did that just because I wanted to compress the phrase "the person whom". However, in the context, whomever sounds very weird to me. On that note, I try not hypercorrect myself; I don't actually know if I've ever had a hypercorrected moment. As for it not being in British English, I wouldn't know. I think it's found more in old manuscripts and treatises.

Jasper Oct-07-2012

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It is not only I who think....
You are saying, "I think so-and -so and I am not the only one."

Skeeter Lewis Oct-25-2012

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There is a surprising assertion above from Agustin. "Whom is the formal way of saying who."
'Who ' is the nominative form, 'whom' is the accusative.

Skeeter Lewis Oct-25-2012

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My apologies, Agustin, for talking rubbish. 'Who' is the subjective form and 'whom' is the objective form. Perhaps you knew that and were simply saying that it's okay to say 'who' informally in the objective form.

Skeeter Lewis Oct-26-2012

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