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I know that between ”it is you who are wrong” and ”it is you who is wrong”, the former is the correct version.

However, if I change who to that, is the same still true?

It is you that are wrong. It is you that is wrong.

To me, that are is clearly wrong.

4 Answers 4

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This is a classic case of grammar where there are two completely different answers, one of which is "grammatically correct" and the other is "what everybody actually does".

To be grammatically correct, first, it's necessary to note that since "you" is a person, not a thing, the correct relative pronoun to use in this case is always "who". You cannot actually use "that" in that sentence, as it is grammatically incorrect. So the only technically correct way to say this is:

It is you who are to blame.

(everything else is wrong)

If you follow that rule, it also avoids the whole secondary question of is/are entirely, so you're good.

However, that having been said, people do actually use "that" in this sort of sentence all the time. So, according to the rules of grammar, if we accept "that" as being OK for now, the same subject-verb agreement rules would apply as for "who", so technically, the grammatically correct(ish) answer is that it should be:

It is you that are to blame.

Except, again, the grammatically correct answer isn't what everybody actually does in practice. To most native speakers, assuming that we're talking about a singular "you", that sentence would sound rather odd, and almost everybody would actually say:

It is you that is to blame.

instead.

The reason for this, I believe, is a combination of the fact that the singular "you" is rather special (in that it uses "are" even when singular), and that "that" is more frequently/correctly used to refer to objects (which don't behave specially in this way), so in general people are used to saying "who are" (in the context of "you"), but people are more used to saying "that is" for anything singular. As a result, when you mix "you" with "that", you get "you that is", because "that is" is the set phrase people are used to saying in general for anything singular.

So in summary, the most natural-sounding sentence is actually grammatically wrong in two separate ways, but it is still what most people say. I guess this might actually be one of those cases where two wrongs do make a right..

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  • "Who is wrong"? You or me? I believe it is you ||who is wrong.
    – Lambie
    Jan 20, 2020 at 23:50
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'That', in "It is you that are wrong", is a relative pronoun and it's not the subject of the subordinate clause. The real subject is 'you', so "are" is correct.

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  • That sounds incredibly awkward to me. Perhaps it's different between AmE and BrE?
    – Andrew
    Oct 28, 2018 at 15:53
  • @Andrew what would you make of it?
    – dan
    Oct 28, 2018 at 22:18
  • I'd probably say "It is you who is wrong", although if I thought about it, I'd probably correct myself and say "It is you who are wrong". But using "that" I would always say "It is you that's wrong". If I'm guilty of the typical American barbarism when it comes to English, then I feel bad, but nevertheless ...
    – Andrew
    Oct 28, 2018 at 22:26
  • @Andrew Good to know it! I'm just a learner. All I addressed above in my answer is just based on the grammar rules I 've learnt from books. It could be plain wrong practically. So, feel free to correct me anytime. Thanks!
    – dan
    Oct 28, 2018 at 22:38
  • @Andrew As JeremyC pointed out, if 'you' refers to more than one person, would you still say: It is you that is wrong.?
    – dan
    Oct 29, 2018 at 1:13
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Who is wrong? If it is me, and nobody else, then I cannot for a moment see why you would not say "It is you who is wrong."

If the people who are wrong are me and my whole family then you would say "It is you who are wrong".

The word "you" can be plural or singular depending on context. The verb following "who" must relate to whether the person or people being referred to are plural or singular.

I do not see any difference here between BrE and AmE.

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  • So you mean the subject of the verb is in third person and the choice between is/are falls into singularity and plurality, right?
    – user67265
    Oct 28, 2018 at 23:09
  • With the verb "to be" I recall that there is no subject as such, just a complement. Leaving that grammatical technicality aside, it all turns on whether "you" refers to one person or to more than one. If one person ,"is" is correct, if more than one ,"are".
    – JeremyC
    Oct 28, 2018 at 23:17
  • But you never say: "you is wrong", no matter 'you' refers to one person or more than one. Maybe, the structure matters here?
    – dan
    Oct 29, 2018 at 0:48
  • What about with other verbs except for 'to be'? E.g. It is you who has said that. VS It is you who have said that. which one is correct?
    – dan
    Oct 29, 2018 at 1:36
  • @dan I agree with you. You have a point there. I think the same rule still applies.
    – user67265
    Oct 29, 2018 at 4:20
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Strictly speaking It is you who/ that are wrong is the correct grammatical form.

It is I who am to blame

It is you who are to blame

Here the subjects are not relative pronouns but those who precede them.

So it is you that are wrong is correct

I am not sure whether the rule is strictly followed in speech or not.

In informal contexts we hear people say it is you that is wrong

Here is a link which shows the usage.

https://thegrammarexchange.infopop.cc/topic/i-who-am-is-to-blame

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  • You is plural or singular in English.
    – Lambie
    Jan 20, 2020 at 22:20

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