Tuesday, May 06, 2014

It is I ... possibly

One of the books I read on holiday was Next Door to Murder by Anthea Fraser. I've read several of her books in the Rona parish series - Rona is a writer who inevitably gets involved in mysteries and murders while investigating her subjects. They're more family sagas than mystery stories and are light and easy to read although on times the writer in me has niggling doubts about the way they're written. Having said that I'll choose one from the library when I don't want anything too strenuous - at the moment I'm reading Booker Prize winning Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.

But to get back to the particular niggle I experienced on holiday (apart from too many exposed willies on the beach that is). Rather than a quibble with the style this was a grammatical 'itch' that I needed to scratch again on return. The author wrote this:
'It's me,' she said ungrammatically.

Firstly, why add 'ungrammatically'? It's not relevant to the story but is simply the author saying, 'I know this is wrong and I want you to know that I know.'

Secondly, is it wrong? Now that is a question.

My first thought is that it's not wrong: 'me' is the object of the sentence and thus is right. But today I checked on the internet for what the experts say, and, apparently, theoretically it should be 'I' because of ancient Latin and Greek rules.

"Subject complements are used only with a class of verbs called linking verbs, of which to be is the most common."

However everyone seems agreed that saying 'It's me,' is acceptable although some grammar fundamentalists would suggest saying, 'It's Liz,' or 'This is Liz,' in my case, thus removing the dilemma.

What would you say?


Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Hi Liz , Just had to look !!

Anyway, I would say "It's me" Or It's Anne !!!

Sod the Latin and Greek rules ..Are you saying that we should be saying or writing "It's I"? Now that sounds totally wrong. No wonder we question the English Language , well I do anyway and it is so confusing.

Now you have me thinking . What Latin and Greek rules??

nick said...

Of course it's okay. Whatever the scholars say, it's a generally accepted usage and that's all that matters I think.

Liz Hinds said...

That's the strict rule, Anne, but as Nick says, it's me is a generally accepted form.

Furtheron said...

I think we make too many grammatical rules. I regularly flaunt most of them!

Good luck with the Mantel - I gave up, couldn't get used to the style of writing at all. I thought it awful, poorly portrayed characters, haphazard plot etc. But what do I know?

Ole Phat Stu said...

I seem to remember someone in the Peter Pan books saying 'Smee ;-)

Leslie: said...

Well, I have never heard of this rule, but in this case the verb is not linking anything (e.g. I am writing, you are writing, he/she is writing). Instead it is used as a simple verb and "me" is the object of the verb. I could be totally wrong but I would say "It's me." So there...lol

Rose said...

Being a stickler on grammar as well, I agree that the proper way is to say "It is I." That being said, it's rather stilted sounding, and I don't think most people object to "It is me" in informal conversation.

I find myself noticing grammatical mistakes in books, and when they're really bad, I stop reading. I guess I've turned into a fussy old English teacher:)

Liz Hinds said...

I'm quite enjoying the Mantel, Furtheron. It took me a while to come to grips with the fact that she usually refers to Cromwell as 'he' even when it's not obvious who 'He' is.

That's true, stu.

Me too, leslie!

It's strange, isn't it, rose, the way grammatical errors leap off the page!

katney said...

It is not so much that it is a linking verb, but an intransitive verb isn't it. The verb to be can't take an object. The word that follows is the same as the subject so it is supposed to be the same declension as the subject. (I said declension because I can't think of a simpler term though there is one.)

So, "It is I." is correct but grates on the ears. "It is me." is incorrect but sounds normal.

Liz Hinds said...

I agree, katney.