If it is "it wasn't me" then is it "it wasn't us"?

9

I've many times heard this phrase:

It wasn't me

Here the case of me is accusative. In that case should we say

It wasn't us

if the agent is plural?

user1474062

Posted 2015-11-26T07:36:05.527

Reputation: 213

Question is not that clear. Please explain more and you punctuation. – onlyforthis – 2015-11-26T07:40:38.950

1

Related: “It was me” or “It was I”. Note the examples in my answer: It's you who are ..., not *It are you ....

– Damkerng T. – 2015-11-26T07:41:31.430

Alex K did understand and answered perfectly. – user1474062 – 2015-11-26T10:59:10.293

English has no dative case. If you're going to call something "dative" by analogy, it should be a preposition phrase headed by to, as in "He gave the book to me". – snailplane – 2015-11-26T14:37:49.263

Like BR41N-FCK, I read this as a question about subject-verb agreement. Is the question instead about the use of us versus we? It seems the OP got the answer they wanted, but it might be helpful to clarify for people reading this after the fact. – MichaelS – 2015-11-26T20:37:26.030

Answers

12

In short, yes. The following exchange would be correct.

Teacher walks into a classroom full of students and there are drawings on the board
Teacher: Did you guys do this?
Students: It wasn't us (who did that)!

The "who did that" part there is in parenthesis because in regular speech, nobody would say that. It is correct, but in regular speech, that part is simply implied.

Alex K

Posted 2015-11-26T07:36:05.527

Reputation: 4 374

7

The subject of the sentence is "it", and so the main verb has to be "wasn't" not "weren't".

Yes, it wasn't us is correct.

BR41N-FCK

Posted 2015-11-26T07:36:05.527

Reputation: 207

Welcome to ELL. I don't understand what you are referring to. In addition, this is not an answer to the question. Please visit our help center to see how it works here.

– None – 2015-11-26T08:53:46.537

4@Rathony I'm guessing the poster assumed the OP was asking about verb agreement, which is not an unreasonable assumption. – DRF – 2015-11-26T09:22:00.513

1@DRF Still it doesn't answer the question. The OP is asking if "us" has anything to do with the agreement, it has nothing to do with the subject-verb agreement. The right answer has to be "*us* doesn't affect the agreement". – None – 2015-11-26T09:44:20.213

I didn't understand why you don't understand. If you are not agent of a verb,you say: it wasn't me but if the agent of verb is plural e.g. we i mean a group of people,one could say it wasn't us ? – user1474062 – 2015-11-26T10:52:10.450

Where is the answer? I second @Rathony – Maulik V – 2015-11-26T12:08:46.750

@Rathony, Normally, if the subject is it, which tells us which verb to use, it's implied that us is not the subject, and therefore has nothing to do with the agreement. That said, this forum exchange suggests "if it weren't" is correct, and possibly more correct, than "if it wasn't", so the word if, despite not being the subject, can affect the verb agreement in this case.

– MichaelS – 2015-11-26T20:34:38.587

@MichaelS A short comment on if. We say if it weren't in second conditional when we mean but for..., and at the same time we could say if it wasn't (him, who broke the window then?) when we're analyzing a past event. Correct me if I'm wrong. – BR41N-FCK – 2015-11-26T20:42:34.617

1@MichaelS That has nothing to do with subject-verb agreement. The difference between if it weren't and if it wasn't is that the former is irrealis (traditionally called "past subjunctive") and the latter realis. An example of realis was: "I apologize if I was rude." (Were is not appropriate here because the speaker doesn't want to deny being rude.) An example of irrealis were: "If I were you, I'd apologize." (I'm not you, so were is appropriate, though speakers often use was in irrealis situations, particularly in informal English.) – snailplane – 2015-11-26T22:14:43.253

1Note, though, that was has been competing with were in irrealis uses for several centuries. When both are possible, were is more formal and was more colloquial. In certain fixed phrases, only were is possible ("Were it not for . . . "), and in other phrases were is particularly common ("If I were you . . . "). Since using were this way is often seen as a sign of an educated speaker, learners may want to use were whenever both are possible. – snailplane – 2015-11-26T22:16:46.913

1

Strictly speaking, English follows Latin in using the nominative case rather than the accusative case after verbs of being. This is logical, since the accusative case - in this instance me or us - indicates the person/object which the verb affects. Eg I hit him.

With verbs of being, however, there is no object acted upon, so it takes a complement in the nominative case - I, we, he etc (not dative as stated in the questiom), since they are the same thing.

So:

"Is that you?" "Yes, it is I." "Can I speak to Sue?" "This is she."

In practice, these forms sound strange in English, although entirely logical and normal in Latin, so we tend to say "Yes, it's me!", which sounds right but is grammatically incorrect, as me cannot be the object of is.

TheHonRose

Posted 2015-11-26T07:36:05.527

Reputation: 127

Oh! Yes you're right, my case is accusative but not dative.It's a confusing of being both acc. and dat. have the same form at writing, by the way good explanation – user1474062 – 2015-11-26T11:07:04.773

1The verb *be* can't take any object as it cant' function as a transitive verb. Do you have any reference/research to support your statement that "Yes, it's me!" is grammatically incorrect? – None – 2015-11-26T11:19:18.060

2English grammar is not Latin grammar. – snailplane – 2015-11-26T14:38:49.013

2Good analysis except that, following snailboat, it would be more correct to replace "strictly speaking" with "according to traditional, but incorrect, grammatical analysis that leaned too much on Latin as the model to follow" – reinierpost – 2015-11-26T19:29:26.093

@Rathony Apart from an MA in English Literature? Yes, Usage and Abusage by Eric Partridge follows C T Onions' An Advanced English Syntax in condemning It is me. It is him. etc. Whilst I accept reinerpost's point about English grammarians imposing Latin syntax on English, in this case it is logical, since me signifies the object of a verb, and me in It is me. is not the object - nothing has been done to it. It is the complement, that is, it = I . Everyone says "It's me.", but it's still wrong! "It is I, Hamlet the Dane!" Shakespeare was right! – TheHonRose – 2015-11-26T22:33:59.707

@user1474062 English doesn't really have "cases", except for the pronouns mentioned above. English has adopted Latin syntax, but Latin is an inflected language, English is not. Eg in English, we could say "of the master" or "the master's" - both possessive - which in Latin would be one word - domini which is the genitive form of dominus - master. As from the dative you mention, you're probably better off thinking of direct and indirect objects - "I gave the shirt (direct object) to him. (indirect object) – TheHonRose – 2015-11-26T23:20:43.027

I do not believe the grammaticality of subject/object pronoun usage depends on logic, analogies to Latin, appeals to a defunct case system, or how Shakespeare said something. It depends more on word order, how something sounds, and accustomed usage. One can try to impose a standard but that has never worked in English, and not in any language as far as I am aware. – None – 2015-12-01T12:16:03.623

@NES So, by that reasoning, "I never done nothing!" is good English? Common usage, bad grammar and bad logic. – TheHonRose – 2015-12-01T13:21:49.447

I never done nothing sounds similar to what is said in some dialects, so it is probably grammatical for these dialects. I wouldn't recommend it for a high school kid seeking to enter MIT. But speakers have the ability to switch between registers and even dialects. I am not going to judge one dialect or another as "bad" or "good". Standard English is one "dialect" among many. – None – 2015-12-01T17:01:08.573

0

It wasn't us is not grammatically correct. The 'us' should be 'we', since wasn't is a linking verb, making the 'us' a predicate nominative, so it should be 'we'. It wasn't we, just as It wasn't I. Our common usage aside, 'we' is correct.

RMW

Posted 2015-11-26T07:36:05.527

Reputation: 1