As far as I know, to be - is intransitive. But how does it happen that it takes a pronoun in the objective form?

This creature can be any one. It can be you, him, her.

Or are they not subjects? I mean you, him, her.

PS: Sorry, I confused the word "subjects" with "objects".

  • 2
    "Be" is intransitive. "It" is the subject in your examples, and the pronouns are predicative complements. Incidentally "be" is always an auxiliary verb, even when it's the only verb in the sentence.
    – BillJ
    Apr 26, 2021 at 9:19

2 Answers 2


"You", "him" and "her" are not objects. They are predicative complements. There are only a handful of verbs that take predicative complements. One of the verbs is the word be (and its inflectional forms, namely is, are, was, were, and am).

Predicative complements can have both forms: objective and subjective. So these are perfectly grammatical:

It can be you
It can be he
It can be she

However, the subjective forms are very formal and sound stilted in normal conversation.

  • Would this be also correct? "This creature can be he/she"? I don't mean "a he or a she"? I mean it can change into him or her.
    – user1425
    Apr 26, 2021 at 10:18
  • Yes. That would be correct.
    – user178049
    Apr 26, 2021 at 11:15
  • But don't you see the difference? 1 "This creature can be he" = " "He can be this creature" = He is this creature.= This creature is he. 2 The creature can be him. = This creature can become him. (But "He can't be this creature).
    – user1425
    Apr 27, 2021 at 4:31

The verb BE is a linking verb or copula.

The subject of your sentence It can be you, him, or her is the dummy it.

The highlighted pronouns in your sentence are Subject complements.

  • Would you say "I want to be her" or "I want to be she"?
    – user1425
    Apr 26, 2021 at 10:36
  • I want to be her is right. Not the she version.
    – user40475
    Apr 26, 2021 at 10:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .