It Is I or It’s Me? This Is She or This Is Her?

Summary

“It’s me” is acceptable in most contexts. The strictly correct alternative, “It is I,” is now confined to highly formal usage.

Example
  • Acceptable: It’s me, Margaret.
    Formal: It is I, Margaret.

Similarly, “This is he” or “This is she” is more formal than “This is him/her.”

Example
  • Acceptable: “Hi, is that Minerva Dash?” “This is her.”
    Formal: “Hello, may I speak with Ms. Dash?” “This is she.”

Although subject pronouns like I and we are the strictly grammatical choice after the be verb, in most settings, constructions like “This is us” and “That’s me” sound more natural.

Examples
  • Acceptable: This is us in Fiji in ’97.
    Formal: This is we in Fiji in 1997.
  • Acceptable: That’s me when I was seven.
    Formal: That is I when I was seven.

I and me

Both I and me are first-person pronouns used to refer to oneself in a sentence. I is a subject pronoun, while me is an object pronoun: I refers to the subject, while me refers to the object of a verb or preposition.

Examples
  • I like chocolate.
    subject = “I”
  • Maya gave me a bar of chocolate.
    object of the verb gave = “me”
  • All this chocolate is for me.
    object of the preposition for = “me”

Confusion arises when the verb in a sentence is a linking verb, like is, was, and other forms of the be verb. Linking verbs don’t describe any action; they simply help describe the subject.

Examples
  • Maya is kind.
    The verb is denotes no action. Instead, it helps describe the subject, Maya. The adjective kind is not the object of the verb, but the subject complement in the sentence.
  • This is Maya.
  • It is Maya who deserves the award.

The word or phrase after a linking verb is in the nominative or subjective case. While this would indicate the use of subject pronouns like I, we, he, and she, idiomatic usage differs. In this article we discuss which pronouns to use after verbs like is and was: subject pronouns like I, he, and she, or object pronouns like me, him, and her.

It’s me vs. It is I

Strictly speaking, the correct pronoun to use after a linking verb is a subject pronoun like I, which means “It is I” is correct. But such usage is now confined to highly formal or literary contexts. In most settings, an object pronoun like me sounds more natural after the be verb: “It’s me” is idiomatic and acceptable in most contexts.

Example
  • Acceptable:Who’s there?” “It’s me, Rita.”
    Formal: “Who dare knock at my door?” “It is I, your nemesis, come to deliver you to your fate.”

In other anticipatory-it structures as well (where it acts as a dummy subject, followed by the real or logical subject), strict grammar rules dictate the use of subject pronouns like I, he, and she. But in real usage, object pronouns like me, him, and her are more common and sound more natural.

Examples
  • Acceptable: It’s me who loves you.
    Formal: It is I who loves you.
  • Acceptable: It wasn’t me.
    Formal: It was not I.
  • Acceptable: It’s just you and me left now in the game.
    Formal: It is just you and I left now in the game.
  • Acceptable: It’s him! That’s the killer.
    Formal: It is he! That is the killer.
  • Acceptable: It’s her, the woman I told you about.
    Formal: It is she, the woman I told you about.
Tip

Using I instead of me after is or was can sound pompous in everyday usage; me sounds more natural.

Example
  • Awkward: It is not you; it is I.
    Better: It’s not you; it’s me.

This is she vs. This is her

After a linking verb like is, subject pronouns like she, he, and we are the strictly grammatical option. However, in most contexts, object pronouns like her, him, and us are idiomatically acceptable and considered the more natural choice.

Examples
  • Acceptable: “Hi, is that Maya?” “Yes, this is her.”
    Formal: “Hello, is that the Queen?” “Yes, this is she.
  • Acceptable: Is that me you’re talking about?
    Formal: Is that I about whom you speak?
  • Acceptable: That’s me as a baby.
    Formal: That is I as a baby.
  • Acceptable: That’s him. He’s the man who stole my shoes!
    Formal: That is he. He’s the man who stole my shoes!
  • Acceptable: You’re her, the woman from the show.
    Formal: You are she, the woman from the show.
  • Acceptable: This is us when we were kids.
    Formal: This is we when we were kids.

Not just with demonstratives like this and that, but also with other subjects followed by a linking verb, subject pronouns like I, we, he, and she are seen only in formal usage, while me, us, him, and her are preferred in everyday speech.

Examples
  • Acceptable: Stuck between them and their squabbles is me.
    Formal: Stuck between them and their squabbles is I.
  • Acceptable: The most important person is her.
    Formal: The most important person is she.

Examples from literature

The following examples from writing illustrate how object pronouns like me are generally preferred over subject pronouns like I after the be verb. Note how the writers say “It was me” or “This is me” rather than “It is I” or “This is I.”

Examples
  • It was me against my brother.
    Leon Uris, The Haj (1984)
  • It was hard to avoid the feeling that somebody, somewhere, was missing the point. I couldn’t even be sure it wasn’t me.
    Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See (1990)
  • It was me, my thinking, my cancer of never letting go.
    Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)
  • The thing I’m most afraid of is me.
    Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 (trans. Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, 2011)
  • Here I am washing my hands, and the cracked mirror shows me to myself, suspended as it were, in time; this is me, this moment will not pass.
    Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (1938)
  • Novels are what we peel off, and come at last to the core, which is only you and me.
    Virginia Woolf, The Sickle Side of the Moon (The Letters of Virginia Woolf), ed. Nigel Nicolson (1987)

Quick Quiz

Which is correct?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which sounds more natural?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which is more formal?
Choose from these answers
All done!

Did You Know?

Hyphens are more common in British than in American English.
Know more:When to Use a Hyphen (-)