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I'm wondering why in the sentence "they are us" it is used the object pronoun us instead of the subject pronoun we.

A general rule is subject + verb + object, then I assumed the reason could be subject pronoun + verb + object pronoun, but the verb to be doesn't want any object.

Therefore why choose us rather than we ?

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  • "Subject + verb + object" is not "a general rule". It's the way certain simple transitive sentences are formed; it is not general, and does not apply to most sentences. Us is chosen because the objective (aka "accusative") form of a personal pronoun is the form that is used most of the time, except for subject. Subjects are nominative (we in this case), but this is not a subject; never mind whether it's an object -- it's not a subject. May 19 at 14:19
  • @JohnLawler OP is not wrong, but not for the reason they think. look up "predicate nominative"
    – Esther
    May 19 at 15:50
  • Thank you, you've enlightened, at different levels, the darkness I was moving through. By the way I wonder why you've decided to comment rather than answer the question.
    – esa
    May 19 at 15:57
  • I have in fact answered as well, even before writing the comment, which was just for the previous commenter.
    – Esther
    May 19 at 16:04
  • My apologies @Esther, my previous comment was meant to John Lawler.
    – esa
    May 20 at 12:39

1 Answer 1

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TL;DR: Either one is correct, but "They are us" is much more commonly used in everyday language.

There is something called a "predicate nominative," which is "the adjective (or adjective phrase) or noun (or noun phrase) that follows a linking verb to complete its meaning" (Merriam-Webster), and it should take the subject form, ie "we" instead of "us", or "I" instead of "me". This has long been considered "technically correct", and generations of grammar teachers have insisted that it be used.

However, in everyday language, most people use the object form in these cases. Even though some grammar teachers may not like it, the object form is correct as well, although less formal in style, and most importantly, the majority of people consider it the "normal" way of speaking. You can use either one, but the "us" form here is common in most usage, and the "we" form can sound overly formal.

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  • You nailed it. I had Italian "predicato nominale" in my mind and it works the way you described "predicate nominative".
    – esa
    May 19 at 16:06
  • 1
    Except that it's used in spoken Italian, whereas the nominative is not used in spoken English. And rarely in writing, for that matter. It sounds too much like grammar-school. May 19 at 18:22
  • For a different analysis see Joseph Emonds' _Grammatically deviant prestige constructions. Aside from the eponymous "prestige construction" (which he suggests exists only as a taught rule), English pronouns are not case-marked: the "I/he/she/we/they" form is used only in certain syntactic contexts, and the other form elsewhere.
    – Colin Fine
    May 19 at 21:39
  • I beg your pardon: what OP, TL, DR stand for?
    – esa
    May 20 at 12:48
  • @esa TL;DR or TLDR stands for "Too Long; Didn't Read," and usually contains a short summary of a longer text. "OP" in the context of a forum or similar stands for "Original Poster" or "Original Post".
    – Esther
    May 20 at 12:56

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