9

I've many times heard this phrase:

It wasn't me

Here the case of me is accusative. In that case should we say

It wasn't us

if the agent is plural?

  • Question is not that clear. Please explain more and you punctuation. – onlyforthis Nov 26 '15 at 7:40
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    Related: “It was me” or “It was I”. Note the examples in my answer: It's you who are ..., not *It are you .... – Damkerng T. Nov 26 '15 at 7:41
  • Alex K did understand and answered perfectly. – user1474062 Nov 26 '15 at 10:59
  • English has no dative case. If you're going to call something "dative" by analogy, it should be a preposition phrase headed by to, as in "He gave the book to me". – snailcar Nov 26 '15 at 14:37
  • Like BR41N-FCK, I read this as a question about subject-verb agreement. Is the question instead about the use of us versus we? It seems the OP got the answer they wanted, but it might be helpful to clarify for people reading this after the fact. – MichaelS Nov 26 '15 at 20:37
12

In short, yes. The following exchange would be correct.

Teacher walks into a classroom full of students and there are drawings on the board
Teacher: Did you guys do this?
Students: It wasn't us (who did that)!

The "who did that" part there is in parenthesis because in regular speech, nobody would say that. It is correct, but in regular speech, that part is simply implied.

7

The subject of the sentence is "it", and so the main verb has to be "wasn't" not "weren't".

Yes, it wasn't us is correct.

  • Welcome to ELL. I don't understand what you are referring to. In addition, this is not an answer to the question. Please visit our help center to see how it works here. – user24743 Nov 26 '15 at 8:53
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    @Rathony I'm guessing the poster assumed the OP was asking about verb agreement, which is not an unreasonable assumption. – DRF Nov 26 '15 at 9:22
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    @DRF Still it doesn't answer the question. The OP is asking if "us" has anything to do with the agreement, it has nothing to do with the subject-verb agreement. The right answer has to be "us doesn't affect the agreement". – user24743 Nov 26 '15 at 9:44
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    @MichaelS That has nothing to do with subject-verb agreement. The difference between if it weren't and if it wasn't is that the former is irrealis (traditionally called "past subjunctive") and the latter realis. An example of realis was: "I apologize if I was rude." (Were is not appropriate here because the speaker doesn't want to deny being rude.) An example of irrealis were: "If I were you, I'd apologize." (I'm not you, so were is appropriate, though speakers often use was in irrealis situations, particularly in informal English.) – snailcar Nov 26 '15 at 22:14
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    Note, though, that was has been competing with were in irrealis uses for several centuries. When both are possible, were is more formal and was more colloquial. In certain fixed phrases, only were is possible ("Were it not for . . . "), and in other phrases were is particularly common ("If I were you . . . "). Since using were this way is often seen as a sign of an educated speaker, learners may want to use were whenever both are possible. – snailcar Nov 26 '15 at 22:16
1

Strictly speaking, English follows Latin in using the nominative case rather than the accusative case after verbs of being. This is logical, since the accusative case - in this instance me or us - indicates the person/object which the verb affects. Eg I hit him.

With verbs of being, however, there is no object acted upon, so it takes a complement in the nominative case - I, we, he etc (not dative as stated in the questiom), since they are the same thing.

So:

"Is that you?" "Yes, it is I." "Can I speak to Sue?" "This is she."

In practice, these forms sound strange in English, although entirely logical and normal in Latin, so we tend to say "Yes, it's me!", which sounds right but is grammatically incorrect, as me cannot be the object of is.

  • Oh! Yes you're right, my case is accusative but not dative.It's a confusing of being both acc. and dat. have the same form at writing, by the way good explanation – user1474062 Nov 26 '15 at 11:07
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    The verb be can't take any object as it cant' function as a transitive verb. Do you have any reference/research to support your statement that "Yes, it's me!" is grammatically incorrect? – user24743 Nov 26 '15 at 11:19
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    English grammar is not Latin grammar. – snailcar Nov 26 '15 at 14:38
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    Good analysis except that, following snailboat, it would be more correct to replace "strictly speaking" with "according to traditional, but incorrect, grammatical analysis that leaned too much on Latin as the model to follow" – reinierpost Nov 26 '15 at 19:29
  • @Rathony Apart from an MA in English Literature? Yes, Usage and Abusage by Eric Partridge follows C T Onions' An Advanced English Syntax in condemning It is me. It is him. etc. Whilst I accept reinerpost's point about English grammarians imposing Latin syntax on English, in this case it is logical, since me signifies the object of a verb, and me in It is me. is not the object - nothing has been done to it. It is the complement, that is, it = I . Everyone says "It's me.", but it's still wrong! "It is I, Hamlet the Dane!" Shakespeare was right! – TheHonRose Nov 26 '15 at 22:33
0

It wasn't us is not grammatically correct. The 'us' should be 'we', since wasn't is a linking verb, making the 'us' a predicate nominative, so it should be 'we'. It wasn't we, just as It wasn't I. Our common usage aside, 'we' is correct.

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