Interested in Language
This is an excerpt from a short story from Thomas Hardy which I am reading now:
"Nevertheless, when awakened at night by any noise, Joanna would rise from bed and glance at the shop opposite by the light from the flickering lamp, to make sure it was not they." (To Please His Wife (1891) by Thomas Hardy)
I was wondering why here one uses they rather than them, since the function appears to me to be of an object rather than a subject. Or am I wrong?
Could you please comment about it?
Any similar examples?
P.S.: Feel free to correct any mistakes on my post.
A so-called "traditional" grammar rule states that a subject follows the linking verb "be". Sometimes this happens, as in the fixed expression that some people use when answering the phone, "this is he" or "this is she".
It's possible to hear and read subject + be + subject (or nominative pronoun), as in the passage you posted here. However, it's not really practical, nor is it advisable, to think that you should adhere to this so-called grammar rule. Native speakers simply don't say things such as this:
I think I see her now.
Yes, that's she.She's getting out of her car now.
We say "that's her".
USAGE NOTE Traditional grammar requires the nominative form of the pronoun in the predicate of the verb be: It is I (not me); That must be they (not them), and so forth. Nearly every speaker of Modern English finds this rule difficult to follow. Even if everyone could follow it, in informal contexts the nominative pronoun often sounds pedantic and even ridiculous, especially when the verb is contracted, as in It's we.
The rest of this usage note is here: be: Definition, Synonyms from Answers.com
Grammar myths debunked, 04-15-02
Myth 5: Expressions like "It was me" and "She was taller than him" are incorrect; the correct forms are "It was I" and "She was taller than he."
Pullum: Stuff and nonsense.In fact, stuffy nonsense: The forms with nominative pronouns sound ridiculously stuffy today.In present-day English, the copular verb takes accusative pronoun complements and so does "than."My advice would be this: If someone knocks at your door, and you say "Who's there?" and what you hear in response is "It is I," don't let them in.It's no one you want to know.
Last edited by PROESL; 15-Aug-2009 at 17:00.
I agree that very few speakers would say 'It is I.', but if this is followed by a clause, the situation is different- Google has about twenty times as many hits for 'it was he who' than it does for 'it was him who'.