Let's say I'm in a room with Person A, and I'm on the phone with Person B. After I stop talking with Person B on the phone, is it correct to say "It was Person B" to Person A, or should I say "He/she was Person B". Basically is it correct to use "it" in this scenario, or would Person B's gender specific pronoun be used.

3 Answers 3


If person A didn't ask you about it before you speak: "That was person B"

If they did ask: "Person B", or "It was Person B"


Who is it that can tell me who I am?

-- Shakespeare, King Lear

Who is it?

-- Michael Jackson, "Who Is It"

We often use the word "it" to refer to an unknown person in a phrase such as "who is it", "who was it", or "who will it be". The phrase "who was it" particularly applies to events such as a telephone call; from The Free Dictionary,

Who was it?

Who called on the telephone or who was at the door? (Assumes that the caller is not waiting on the telephone or at the door.) Sue (as Mary hangs up the telephone): Who was it? Mary: None of your business. Bill (as he leaves the door): What a pest! Sue: Who was it? Bill: Some silly survey.

In the context of this definition, the sentence, "It was Person B," is a suitable answer to the question, "Who was it?" One might even give this response without having been asked the question, although in the absence of a question I would be more likely to say, "That was Person B."


The question seems to be around gender. In a fairly depersonalised society with non-face-to-face communication, the subject in question (or unquestioned) is also depersonalised. In doing so he/she loses gender+number and becomes "the call" and as such (s)he wouldn't be used. Further communication would be repersonalised. You wouldn't then add "It said it would ring back later"

Whether you opt for "That" or "It" will depend on the question and whether you want to harmonise with it. Who was that? -> (That was) Person B. Who was it? -> (It was) Person B. Same goes for during the call with "was"->"is"

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