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a. It’s I.

b. It’s me.

“the choice between the cases for a predicative complement noun phrase varies according to the style level: the nominative is noticeably formal, the accusative is more or less neutral and always used in informal contexts.” (CGEL, p.9)

. . . . . . As for the post-verbal NP in the existential construction, pronouns with a nominative-accusative contrast are rare, but where they occur they are accusative. In answer to the question Who is there who could help her?, one could respond with Well, there’s always me. Nominative I does not occur, indicating that the post-verbal NP has lost the subject case property. (CGEL, p.241)

Does the account say it, there’s always I, ungrammatical? Or while we can use this; when they say there’s always me they denote that the NP, me, has lost subject-case property?

In who is there who could help her?, the former who is shifted forward from complement place (semantic subject; there is who/ who could help her), the latter who is nominative-relative pronoun. In this syntax, which has the accusative case?

  • just a remark, to supplement the excellent answer below: don't say "It's I." Native English speakers never say it and it sounds extremely wrong to me. A lot of us will probably assume you are making a mistake, even though you are following the "rule." If you are in an extremely formal context and truly feel you cannot say "it's me" (I doubt such a context exists), find another way to word your sentence, but don't say "it's I." – hunter Dec 12 '13 at 15:41
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    Put differently. When your source says "noticeably formal," it isn't the good kind of noticing! – hunter Dec 12 '13 at 15:43
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This is a nice question. I learned a lot from it.

As far as I can tell, the author states that "the post-verbal NP in the existential construction, pronouns with a nominative-accusative contrast are rare, but where they occur they are accusative," and "Nominative I does not occur, indicating that the post-verbal NP has lost the subject case property," at its surface simply means that the author has never found Well, there's always I", with a hint that he believe that he shouldn't find one.

But does that means "There’s always I" ungrammatical?

I looked up some web pages and found the following passage from here,

If we call something descriptively grammatical, we mean that it obeys the usual practice of native speakers. Conversely, something that is descriptively ungrammatical violates the usual practice of native speakers. When linguists use the term ungrammatical by itself, they almost always mean descriptively ungrammatical. By convention, we mark something that is descriptively ungrammatical with an asterisk (*).

Based on the way to judge grammaticality described above, my opinion is "There's always I" is descriptively ungrammatical. However, please observe this deictic-presentation construction that a nominative pronoun may appear as the post-verbal NP, e.g. "There am I, covered in mud, ..." (See this page from The Clause in English: In honour of Rodney Huddleston.

As for the other question, "'Who is there who could help her?', which who has the accusative case?", I'm not sure I can answer that correctly. But if I understand correctly, the accusative case is more concerned on the "form" rather than its "semantic", so both who's are in nominative case. (In contrast with whom, which is in accusative case.) Anyway, please check second opinions from others on this.

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