It was ... salted the earth around your flower deck.

I wrote the second form "It was me". I have chosen the most "appropriate" answer to this question as somebody who is learning English. This decision was made on a phonetic basis so it's for sure I made a mistake.

Surely you have a rational explanation to this exercise, maybe a grammar rule, or is it an English expression?

  • 4
    Don't forget who or that. "I salted the earth around your flower deck" clefts into "It is/was [I/me] who/that [salted the earth around your flower deck]."
    – user230
    Sep 25, 2015 at 0:05
  • What do you mean by: >It is/was [I/me] who/that "It is" goes with "I" that goes with who ? On the other hand we have "It was" which is linked to "me" and "That"?
    – jr28
    Sep 25, 2015 at 22:37
  • 1
    No, they're three independent variables.
    – user230
    Sep 26, 2015 at 0:19
  • It was XKCD that had an amusing take on this.
    – J.R.
    Feb 15, 2019 at 22:41

2 Answers 2


Pick one:

  • It was I who salted the earth around your flower deck. -- (if you want to sound formal)
  • It was me that/who salted the earth around your flower deck. -- (which sounds less formal)

Both are correct, but because it's a test/question in a grammar book, and grammar books usually prefer the formal alternative, I think it wants this as the answer: It was I who ...

Note that the part "salted the earth around your flower deck" flows better with the formal alternative. A typical informal cleft-sentence of that sentence would be something like: "It was me who was responsible". (But It was me that/who salted the earth around your flower deck" is by no means wrong or incorrect.)


From Practical English Usage by Michael Swan:

131 cleft sentences (2): it was my secretary who ...
2 It is I who ... ; It is me that ...

When an emphasised subject is a pronoun, there are two possibilities. Compare:
-  It is I who am responsible. (formal)
   It's me that's/who's responsible. (informal)
-  It is you who are in the wrong. (formal)
   It's you that's in the wrong. (informal)
To avoid being either too formal or too informal in this case, we could say, for example,
   I'm the person / the one who's responsible.

  • So there isn't any grammatical rule which explain(s?) the difference between I and me. It is a story of formal and informal form of the phrase?
    – jr28
    Sep 25, 2015 at 22:41
  • 1
    @jr28 I think we could say that. The formal vs. informal is actually the point of the grammar/usage of this structure. However, note the choices of the relative pronouns and the auxiliary verbs in the formal and informal alternatives. They are different. Sep 25, 2015 at 22:44
  • 5
    By the way, I'm the one who . . . has actually become the most common choice in the last fifty years.
    – user230
    Sep 26, 2015 at 1:56

The "It was I who..." sounds more formal because it is technically more correct, I believe. The relative clause "who salted the earth..." is a subject clause (with 'who' being the subject of the verb). Therefore "I" (also a subject) is better than "me" (an object). "It was me who..." has probably crept into every day language over the last century or half century, as grammatical error has become more commonplace and therefore widely accepted. "It was me..." would be more grammatically correct (and indeed the only acceptable option) in a sentence where "me" was the direct or indirect object of the verb, e.g. "It was me she loved the most, not you." (direct object) Or, "It was me she gave the flowers to, not you." (indirect object). That's my two cents worth anyway!

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