Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More



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June 9, 2012

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Latest Comments

What’s happening to the Passive?

  • July 30, 2014, 6:36pm

What passive are you talking about? I see no passive.

@Warsaw Will,

First, I'm not Jason. I'm Jasper.

I did react poorly. I may have been grumpy/irritable when/before I wrote it. And although I focus on formal grammar when I look at something, I do not discount informal grammar. I try to adhere to formal grammar that makes some semblance of sense. So my focus is always on the grammar and not so much on spoken language and the idiomaticity of the sentence.

As for Quirk et al., yes, that is what I am talking about. Reading it can be arduous. If you ever come by a copy, I suggest reading the chapter on adverbials. It is by far the most fascinating chapter.

After thinking about "who am I to be treated this way?", I don't see it as questionable anymore.


I don't think that I would deem myself academic. I don't believe that I have the breadth of knowledge to be described as such. I think life-long learner would be a better fit.

I'm going to wait and mull over your posts a little more before responding to them.

@Skeeter Lewis,

That is a particularly evocative post I must say, in an enlightening way, that is.


Well, for the question at hand: whether it should be who or whom in these constructions. As for importance, I like challenging problems that in some cases requires looking at them from a different angle and like having a solution wherever possible. I know that that is not always possible, but I still like to try.

Well, as an organized person, I tend to like things to be as neat as possible. I like being able to describe things precisely and in an organized way, but if the terminology isn't there or inadequate, then we need to adjust our thinking and determine how to add whatever it is that we are dealing with into grammar.

On languages, I know some facts here and there about other languages. Some words from some, but unfortunately, I don't actually know how to speak or write any other language. It's one of my regrets. I plan to teach myself German at some point however. I have a grammar book, but on my list of priorities it's low as of right now. I did read a few pages when i got it, but stopped due to homework.


Yes, I agree with that. Makes perfect sense.

@Skeeter Lewis,

Exactly, as regulars, we know each other's positions on certain matters. We don't need to hear restatements of those things and to get sidetracked into an issue of descriptivism vs. prescriptivism on every page.

@Warsaw Will,

"Wow! Someone got out of bed on the wrong side this morning. But I'll ignore all the negative stuff and try and answer some of your points:

I'm sorry you think that some arbitrary rules that hardly any educated speakers actually follow in spoken language (which is definitely the case with 'whom') are more important than the natural idiomatic language the majority of educated speakers actually speak."

Yes, I was angry because most of the time you post something you have to have some mention of vernacular grammar.

I don't care whether other people follow the "arbitrary" rules or not in spoken or written language; I do however care about whether I follow the "arbitrary" rules.

"What you call 'standard grammar' is in effect formal grammar, and it is not, for example, the definition used by linguists. And my position on this is not simply of EFL, but of modern linguistics in general.

When I look at a grammatical problem, I look for the formal—most standard—answer. Standard English is a gradient and I see it as such. Formal is at the most standard end and very, very informal is at the most nonstandard end. I apologize for misrepresenting your position.

"You say: No, "who" is not the subject of "am", but "I" is. This is basic subject-operator inversion common in interrogative sentences; if it were "who is going to the mall", then yes, but here, no.

Well, that is contentious to say the least. As your example shows, 'standard subject-operator inversion' is not used when 'who' refers to the subject. Why should it be any different with 'be'?

'Who hit Mandy?' subject + verb + direct object
'Who is Mandy?' subject + verb + subject complement"

Then if who isn't the subject complement, then why does the verb agree with the pronouns in these sentences?

Who am I? (am agrees with I not who)
Who are they? (are agrees with they)
Who is she? (etc.)

Third person singular agrees with who when it is subject:

[1] A: Who is going to the store?
B: I am (going to the store).

[2] A: Who likes playing basketball?
B: I do.
C: He (B) does.

"This is from your StackExchange link: 'Notice that there is nothing in between the auxiliary "will" and the verb "be", and so, that means that there hasn't been any subject-auxiliary inversion, and that means that the subjects are "Which" and "What". ' "

That's comparing apples and carrots and you know it. We are not talking about "will be" and we are not talking about "which" and "what". We are talking about simple present tense "be" and "who/whom"

"We could both find opinions here to support our argument, but these are both only forums: they prove nothing."

That's just absurd. We have the rules and we have brains; we therefore can objectively scrutinize and deduce an answer. I'm sure you'll now proudly trumpet descriptivism vs. prescriptivism because of the last sentence. So essentially the fact that they are forums means that people who are proficient and educated in grammar can't come to a conclusion? Bullshit. That's disrespectful to any person who offers an answer on forums and, frankly, anywhere. And what's to stop me from disregarding what you say? Yours is just an opinion.

"As for your other examples - you say 'How hard are they to understand?' And you give the example: 'For "I am who to be", think of it as some king standing over his people and saying this sentence to mean: emulate me, aspire to be my glory.' Well, I think that's stretching it a bit, but OK when it's explained it might be possible . But I doubt anybody actually speaks like that. There are precisely two examples in the whole Internet, neither of which have this meaning, and both of which sound distinctly odd - .

'For thy guiding hand of thee, Thou I am who to be proud'
'Who are you who do not know that I am who to be set to create him as a Prophet' "

Nobody might speak like that, yes, but no one speaks in a myriad of ways. Each person has a different diction to another's. Agreed the examples provided are odd sounding, but with a minimum of concentration, they make sense.

"And the others:

‘I am he to judge.’ - one example - 'I am he to judge and he to know, I am he to rain justice upon the masses and conquer ALL!' - but one swallow doesn't make a swallow."

‘I am him to judge’ - no examples outside this forum

‘I am he to be.’ - a handful, mostly either from foreigners or misprints

(Now ‘I am not the one to judge’ I would understand)

‘I am him to be.’ - no examples outside this forum, but at a pinch I could imagine Jesus saying it in the KJV (but it doesn't occur in any books)”

I don’t necessarily see what any of these prove. Have the sentences happened before? “Well, no, yes, no.” (The yeses and no’s are responses based on the examples above). Have there been grammatical sentences that have never been uttered? “Well, yeah.” So if grammatical sentences that have never been spoken can be formed, why does it matter that they haven’t occurred?

“These simply are not idiomatic English, to my ear, but more the sort of thing Yoda might come out with. But if that's what floats your boat, who am I to argue - or should that be 'whom', perhaps?"

The idiomaticity of the construction isn’t the point. I’m talking about the grammar of it, which can winnow through. Yoda speaks with object fronting if I recall or perhaps verb & object fronting. I would say "who" in this case and in the "to judge" one as I've stated in the post before my last.

I think the rule with infinitive is based on the commonness of an infinitive with a transitive verb. I have become more confident about this view since I encountered “Raised object” in Quirk et al., but in this construction, I think it would be more apt to describe it as a “Raised subject complement”.

“Here are a couple of (I would suggest more realistic) examples 'who' + 'be' + infinitive, where I think we can more or less rule out 'whom' (see the respective Ngram graphs):

'Who is he to tell me what to do?'
'Who am I to be treated this way?' "

I agree with the first, but the second with the passive infinitive seems very slightly questionable.

Will, I don't care about the battles and the overarching war between the two sides. Nero played the fiddle whilst Rome burned. I only care about my fiddling. I hope there isn't any animosity between us because of this. I disagree with your position, but I also respect and see some of its benefits in analyzing grammar from a new angle, as it was done in Quirk et al, which I have almost finished reading.


Although I put copular verbs, I was mainly focused on "be". As I'm sure you know, other copular verbs take objective case pronouns, e.g., I became him (not he). I probably should have simply put "be". It was a gaffe.

I'm beginning to think the subject of infinitive being in the objective case is dependent on the predicate of the main (matrix) clause. To illustrate by using [1] above:

[1] Who am I to judge?
≈I am he (the person) to judge (x).

Who is the subject complement and subject of the infinitive "to judge", but its status as subject complement takes precedence:

[1] Whom am I to judge?
=I am to judge (x/them/...)

Now [2] may be "whom" because it may actually be the object of the infinitive phrase rather than the subject of the phrase:

I am to be (him/the one/...)

I just realized I made a mistake in my initial analysis, which Warsaw Will pointed out, I believe.

"[2a'] “I am the person (who) you should be.” (U)
[2b'] “I am the person (whom) you should be.” (A)"

[2a'] is acceptable while [2b'] is not. They should be reversed. Whoops.

Also from my grammar book:

"How to Find the Subject of a Sentence"

3. To find the subject in a question, turn the question into statement form.


Yes, that's more like it. Thank you.

@Warsaw Will,

"I have very grave doubts about your opening premise, beloved by certain grammar sites, that if the answer is 'him', it must be 'whom'."

I have heard this all before. I don't care that you're descriptivist on grammar and that you don't care about standard grammar, but I do care. You don't have to spout off ESL and what's common in speech every time you answer a question. Maybe answering the question without expressing you're perspective would be better.

"1 - “Who am I to judge?” - this is such a well-known expression there should be no question of using 'whom' - in any case 'who' is the subject here (not 'I'), so 'whom' would be plain wrong."

Yes, I said in my opening statement: "After writing most of this, I think [1] should be who now."

"2 - “I am who/whom to be.” - sorry, but I have no idea what's going on here, nor for the rest of sentences 1a to 2d, which as far as I'm concerned, simply aren't English.

[1a] to [2d] is expressing [1] and [2] in various declarative sentences. How hard are they to understand? For "I am who to be", think of it as some king standing over his people and saying this sentence to mean: emulate me, aspire to be my glory.

"I can't agree with your classifications here. I know we say things like 'What would you do if you were me?', but in this case 'who' is more natural - 'whom' is hardly ever used in restrictive relative clauses, even with non-copular verbs - 'He's the person who you should see' is much more natural then 'He's the person whom you should see'. "

I'm not talking about naturalness or whether it's frequently used. Get off this descriptivist mindset and focus on the problem.

"Actually the most natural thing is to leave the relative pronoun out altogether, which you can always do in restrictive relative clauses when it refers to the object - 'I am the person you should be.', 'He's the person you should see.' - problem solved!"

I know that's why I put them in parentheses. As for "problem solved", no, that's avoiding and going around it. That is most certainly not my style. I work through it until an answer is reached.

"As jayles says 'It is I who am (the boss around here)' is standard (or more likely - 'It's me who's the boss around here'). But it's not anything to do with coming after the copular verb: it's because 'who' is the subject of the following verb."

This isn't even relevant!

"The need for a second verb to have a subject overrides everything else. Here's a common error (according to traditional grammar) - 'Whom shall I say is calling?' - take away 'shall I say' and the real question is 'Who is calling?' - the need for 'calling' to have a subject overrides the need for 'say' to have an object.

This would support the infinitive's requirement of having the objective case, but I'm beginning to think otherwise.

"In - 'Who am I to be?' (again, rather a strange sentence) 'who' is simply the subject of 'am', not the subject complement / object of 'to be'. Perhaps a more natural example using exactly the same construction - 'OK. Who's it to be? Mandy or Sandy?' - Nobody would ever say 'Whom is it to be?' "

No, "who" is not the subject of "am", but "I" is. This is basic subject-operator inversion common in interrogative sentences; if it were "who is going to the mall", then yes, but here, no.

"There seems to be some confusion over subject complements and subjects here. When 'who' comes at the beginning of an interrogative sentence before 'be', it is always the subject. Even the most purist grammarian can only use 'whom' when another word appears before the verb as a subject, as in your example - 'Whom did he want to meet?'"

Again, no, it's not... and after finding some links, may be.


I think you're missing the point.

Yes, formally, subject complements need to be in the nominative case, but this is not a simple: "It is I/he/she", nor does it have anything to do with cleft sentences, except in the relative clause expansions. It is however about which takes precedence in a construction with a copular verb and an infinitive phrase:

I am he/him to be. (?)
Who/whom am I to be? (?)

I would argue whom/him because I believe the infinitive phrase to take precedence. Normally when a (pro)noun precedes an infinitive phrase, it's usually in the objective case, but what if the (pro)noun follows the verb be and thus requires to be in the nominative case? Does it follow the subject complement rule or the rule that the "subjects" of infinitive clauses are to be in the objective case?

Are proverbs dying?

  • July 4, 2014, 5:20pm

I had intended to respond a day or two ago, but I thought about this and I, in the last month or so, had said "don't count your chickens before they're hatched". I also had a conversation in May, I believe, on a forum with a Frenchman who adored the phrase "ignorance is bliss", and although not necessarily a proverb, though I think it counts somewhat, my brother said, this week and/or the last, "they can't tell the difference between their a**holes and a hole in the ground". I would also expect the old "an eye for an eye ([with its extension:] leaves the whole world blind)" to still be alive.

Are proverbs dying?

  • July 1, 2014, 10:31pm

They may not be used as much, but they are still used. It's just being around people at the right situation. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I know that my family still uses them from time to time. I'm sure that if you searched comment sections of various websites (major time consumption right there), you'd find them. As for new ones, I can't say. "Beggars cannot be choosers" I know I've heard in the last year or so.

I would say that depending on the group, there might be a lower chance of finding them. For example, writers might not use them because they've become cliche, so they _might_ avoid them in speech.

I wonder if there's any correlation between education level and the use of proverbs. Food for thought, I suppose.