Make Your Editor Cry: “I” as the Last Word in a Sentence
An incorrect example would be
Doris talked with Boris and I.
A correct example would be
Doris talked with Boris and me.
The way to remember this is whether the “I” or the “Me” comes before or after the verb. If it is before the verb, it is always “I” and if it is after the verb it is always “me.”
Another good trick to get this one right is to take the other person’s name out of the sentence and see if your personal pronoun choice still sounds right.
Doris talked with I.
As you can see, the result reads as awkward and incorrect.
Purists and die hards have taken me to task on this, saying that the final word would be “I” in the case of a linking verb. Heck, just Google linking verbs and you get all kinds of examples saying things along these lines:
…”the verb “to be” acts as a linking verb, equating subject and object. So “This is she.” and “She is this” are correct because “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.
Basically, I am of a different school of thought. I think this information is actually misleading, an oversimplification, and also wrong in most cases because it applies an incorrect Latin rule. Here’s why.
So, the hypothesis is that “[This] is she” is more correct than “[This] is her.”
BUT replace “This” in the example for “the killer” and determine if it should read “The killer is she.” or “The killer is her.”
Rightly, “She is the killer, so the killer is her.” and “I am the killer, so the killer is me.” and “He is the killer, so the killer is him.” Correct?
Consider, “Her is the killer, so the killer is she.” and “Me am the killer, so the killer is I.” and “Him is the killer, so the killer is he.”
Which is more correct?
Here is just a BUNCH of detail to support this conclusion. In Latin, the verb “esse” (as well as its conjugated forms) means basically “is,” as in the great-great-granddaddy of our English “to be,” verbs (is am are was were be being been). It doesn’t have a direct object in the accusative case, it has a complement in the nominative case. English adopted lots of Latin grammar rules centuries ago and this was one of them.
In Latin, the English phrases “it is she” and “she is it” (which are both noun+verb+noun sentences) are actually both the same thing translated as “id illa est” (word for word: it she is, so noun+noun+verb) or “illa id est” (word for word: she it is, or noun+noun+verb) and either phrase can be translated either way. The point being that the “is” (“est” in this case) just equates two identical things to each other like in algebra you can have x+y=y+x or y+x=x+y and they both mean the same thing.
Grammarians a few centuries ago, as they often did, misapplied this Latin rule of grammar. Again, in Latin, “esse” takes a complement in the nominative case, but Latin declines the verb strongly enough that it doesn’t bother with a pronoun as the subject of a verb unless needed for emphasis. Note that other romance languages, like French for example, do not confuse this. It would be “c’est elle” (word for word: “It is her” so noun+verb+noun) in French, so there isn’t some general universal romance language rule for a complement of “to be” always being in the nominative since this clearly is not.
A normal (transitive) verb, like say “have” has a direct object, which is in the accusative case. So, for example, “I have her” uses “her” as a direct object, and “her” is in the accusative case, where “she” would be in the nominative case. It’s pretty clear, at least I hope, that “I have she” is wrong with the verbs other than the “to be” verbs.
So what about a “to be” verbs? Is it “I am her” in the accusative case which agrees with the active verb case? Or is it “I am she” in the nominative case as would be the Latin exception? Which is more correct? How about in the case of “I am I” or “I am me“? Which is more correct?
The difference here is that English takes word-order very seriously. So a pronoun after a verb is very strongly marked as being in the objective case. This is English “to be,” not Latin “esse,” so you don’t actually get the benefit of the Latin exception unless you misapply the Latin rule. In English, there’s one noun form before the verb and one noun form after the verb (so noun+verb+noun), NOT two identical noun forms followed by the verb (as in Latin noun+noun+verb) , so you don’t get to make clear that it’s commutative. In fact, with any other verb, it clearly is NOT.
Again, die hards will continue to insist on the nominative (“she“) for the complement of the “to be” verb. That’s what they were taught and there’s plentiful misinformation available to support it. But most usage (at least in my experience) prefers the accusative (“her“) and regards the verb as having a direct object rather than a complement.
In other words “This” is the subject, “is” is the verb, “her” is the direct object in the sentence “This is her.”
Not “This” is the subject, “is” is the verb, “she” is the complement in the sentence “This is she.”
“She is the killer, so the killer is her.” and “I am the killer, so the killer is me.” and “He is the killer, so the killer is him.”
“She is [this], so [this] is her.” and “I am [this], so [this] is me.” and “He is [this], so [this] is him.”
Just my $0.02 based on, you know, research and junk and stuff.
Gregg Bridgeman is the Editor-in-Chief at Olivia Kimbrell Press. He is husband to best-selling Christian author Hallee Bridgeman and parent to three. He continues to proudly serve in the US Armed Forces and has done so in either an active or reserve capacity for more than twenty years as an airborne and air assault qualified paratrooper, earning a Bronze Star for his service. Most importantly, he was ordained in October of 2001 after surrendering his life to Christ decades earlier.