I did a test in a session Test Your Grammar, in Word Power Made Easy by Lewis.

1) No one but (she, her) ever made a perfect score on the test

2) I can't remember (who, whom) it was.

3) Was it (she, her) you were talking about?

4) "It is I who (is, am) the only friend you've got", she told him pointedly.

The answers given by the book are 1) her, 2) who, 3) she, 4) am.

Of course I gave the other answers. But I don't understand why I am wrong. For example, in 1), we should choose a pronoun as a subject, not object. So I think 'she' is right; in 3), instead, we should choose a object, since the sentence means "was it that you were talking about her". So I think 'her' is right here.

What do you think?

  • Which sentence are you referring to?
    – Hua
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 4:51
  • The parentheses mean choosing of the two words, so the comma is not part of the sentence. Do you mean 'but' is a preposition here?
    – Hua
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 4:56
  • @Hue yes, and therefore, no one but her is true. I am a learner as you, I am not sure
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 5:06
  • 2
    In 1) "her" is not subject of the sentence (it's "no one but her") where her is object of the preposition "but". In 2) "who it was" is a subordinate interrogative clause with the pronoun as predicative complement of "be"; since complements of "be" are subjective case, then "who" is right. In 3) again, the pronoun is complement of "be" so subjective case "she" is correct (but note that "she" is very formal and most people ignore the rule and say "her". In 4) the subject of the relative clause is 1st person singular "I" and thus requires "am" ("is" is 3rd person sing.)
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 7:57

1 Answer 1


1) No one but (she, her) ever made a perfect score on the test

After prepositions, you use object pronouns. But is a preposition here. The phrase but her is attached to no one (qualifying no one as a modifier) which is the subject of the sentence. (If you have two subjects in a sentence they must be separated by and or or.)

3) Was it (she, her) you were talking about?

Note that the word order is flipped here because it's a question. So the real sentence is It was X.

To be is one of a special category of verb called a copular that can be used to say two nouns/pronouns are the same. What follows after these types of verbs is not really an object but a complement. (If you can replace the "object" with a modifier and still have the sentence make sense, that's a good test to see if it's a complement or object.)

You can use subject pronouns in complements. This is probably a rule of proper English that is often ignored in real speech, you would hear Was it her probably a lot more than Was it she unless someone was trying to sound formal.

  • 1
    In the parentheses of second last paragraph you mention replace the "object" with a modifier. Do you mean replace "she" with an, for example, adjective in this case? I don't think it makes sense to replace she with an adjective in this sentence.
    – Hua
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 15:39
  • 1
    Good point and you are right ... Thinknig about that more, that's not such a good heuristic. Hopefully I did help illustrate the difference between complement and object a little, though.
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 15:59

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