"It was me" or "It was I"

6

4

It was ... salted the earth around your flower deck.

I wrote the second form "It was me". I have chosen the most "appropriate" answer to this question as somebody who is learning English. This decision was made on a phonetic basis so it's for sure I made a mistake.

Surely you have a rational explanation to this exercise, maybe a grammar rule, or is it an English expression?

jr28

Posted 2015-09-24T23:30:29.903

Reputation: 196

4Don't forget who or that. "I salted the earth around your flower deck" clefts into "It is/was [I/me] who/that [salted the earth around your flower deck]." – snailplane – 2015-09-25T00:05:48.523

What do you mean by:

It is/was [I/me] who/that

"It is" goes with "I" that goes with who ? On the other hand we have "It was" which is linked to "me" and "That"? – jr28 – 2015-09-25T22:37:39.683

1No, they're three independent variables. – snailplane – 2015-09-26T00:19:10.920

It was XKCD that had an amusing take on this.

– J.R. – 2019-02-15T22:41:09.410

Answers

10

Pick one:

  • It was I who salted the earth around your flower deck. -- (if you want to sound formal)
  • It was me that/who salted the earth around your flower deck. -- (which sounds less formal)

Both are correct, but because it's a test/question in a grammar book, and grammar books usually prefer the formal alternative, I think it wants this as the answer: It was I who ...

Note that the part "salted the earth around your flower deck" flows better with the formal alternative. A typical informal cleft-sentence of that sentence would be something like: "It was me who was responsible". (But It was me that/who salted the earth around your flower deck" is by no means wrong or incorrect.)


Reference:

From Practical English Usage by Michael Swan:

131 cleft sentences (2): it was my secretary who ...
2 It is I who ... ; It is me that ...

When an emphasised subject is a pronoun, there are two possibilities. Compare:
-  It is I who am responsible. (formal)
   It's me that's/who's responsible. (informal)
-  It is you who are in the wrong. (formal)
   It's you that's in the wrong. (informal)
To avoid being either too formal or too informal in this case, we could say, for example,
   I'm the person / the one who's responsible.

Damkerng T.

Posted 2015-09-24T23:30:29.903

Reputation: 27 649

So there isn't any grammatical rule which explain(s?) the difference between I and me. It is a story of formal and informal form of the phrase? – jr28 – 2015-09-25T22:41:07.853

1@jr28 I think we could say that. The formal vs. informal is actually the point of the grammar/usage of this structure. However, note the choices of the relative pronouns and the auxiliary verbs in the formal and informal alternatives. They are different. – Damkerng T. – 2015-09-25T22:44:30.520

5By the way, I'm the one who . . . has actually become the most common choice in the last fifty years. – snailplane – 2015-09-26T01:56:47.080