I can't remember ( who, whom ) it was.

This is a very common doubt. After searching for long I have understood that in the most simplest way when we can replace the word with 'him' we use 'whom'. When we can replace with 'he' we use 'who'. Using that concept I can write it

I can't remember him. It was him. ---> we will use 'whom'. Is this thought process grammatically correct?

2 Answers 2


This logic almost works, but you got tripped up by a common exception to the rules about cases of pronouns. Although most people would say, "It was him," the "proper" way to say it (which sounds stilted) is "It was he." "To be" is a special "linking verb" or "copula" that takes a subject on both sides rather than an object.

So you should say "I can't remember who it was," even if you're being careful about "who" and "whom." An example of where you could use "whom" is "I can't remember whom I saw."

  • If I am not wrong there are some other copula verbs as well . Isn't it? Is it 'the verbs' that take adjective to qualify them inspire of adverbs? Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 4:12
  • Yup, you can see a list here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_copulae. Most are variations of "to be" or relate to a sense; saying "It smells good" is basically saying "I think it is good" with the added information that you used your sense of smell.
    – Ethan B.
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 17:42

You are not wrong. 'him' is the object of your equivalent sentence, so that it is correct to use 'whom' signifying the object in your context.

Except that almost nobody does. The distinction between 'who' and 'whom' is not observed with precision even in the writings of highly educated native speakers. If someone knocks at your door, and you ask 'Who is it', a native speaker of English would regard the officially correct reply 'It is I' as ludicrous.

Use 'whom' if you like. You can get away with 'who'; there won't be many complaints.

  • Thanks for your feedback. But, it's from a grammar competition. They need an answer that's grammatically correct. Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 20:43
  • If you had said that before, I would have given a different answer.
    – JeremyC
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 13:27

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