Should I use them when I only have the verb to be and when it is referring to the subject?

For example, I know that I shouldn't use him here

1 but it's he who's trying to capitalize on this.

but I heard a native speaker say:

2 but it's them who are trying to capitalize on this.

1 Answer 1


This is a matter of formality. In more colloquial English, we can say:

  • It's him who said that
  • It's them who did it, not me
  • It's us who need to go, not you

Whereas in formal English, and in an exam, you would use

  • It is he who said that
  • It is they who did it, not I
  • It is we who must go, not you

This is actually more complicated than it seems, because the level of formality depends on the specific structure in which the pronouns are embedded (here, cleft sentences). In this case, though the nominative-case pronouns are technically correct in the cleft sentences, they sound very formal.

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