McCosh on NomPred

From the Princeton Alumni Weekly on 2/4, an entertaining note from the 1/25/46 PAW:

(Background on James McCosh, from Wikipedia: “James McCosh (April 1, 1811 – November 16, 1894) was a prominent philosopher of the Scottish School of Common Sense. He was president of Princeton University 1868-1888.”)

At issue is the choice between (1) It is I (which some usage writers have insisted is the only correct version) and (2) It’s me (which these writers insist is just ungrammatical) — between a nominative predicative (NomPred) 1sg pronoun and an accusative predicative (AccPred) one. These writers stipulate that predicative pronouns must always be nominative; AccPred pronouns are vulgar errors, in their opinion.

Some actual facts:

(2) has been grammatical for a very long time, though some authorities judge it to be informal in style. There was nothing wrong with President McCosh’s choice.

(1), on the other hand, is decidly formal in style; I have described it, in a 12/2/14 posting, “Getting it all wrong”, as “essentially a hyperformal idiom”.

Indeed, NomPred pronouns outside 1sg range from edgy in grammaticality (It is he) to absolutely ungrammatical (It is we). Even many 1sg examples — That’s I in the photo — are ungrammatical. See discussion in the “Getting it all wrong” posting.

The generalization is that English predicative pronouns are accusative, period, with some allowance made for the specific example (1) and a few others modeled directly on it as phenomenally formal alternatives.

So let’s hear a cheer for President McCosh and his NomPred!

One Response to “McCosh on NomPred”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    Whenever I answer the phone and someone asks, “May I speak to Mr Hansen?” my answer is, “This is he.” I prefer this to “Speaking.”

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