Let’s solve the burning problem of how you should answer the phone if, in fact, you ever find yourself talking on it; more likely, while reading this blog, you’re texting someone, watching TV, and getting ready to go out, as you have now memorized some of my grammar exercises and can confidently engage in grammatically scintillating conversation. Still, before venturing into the night, you might ask yourself, “Should I answer the phone with This is her/him OR This is s/he? The answer to this question, as you can surmise, is This is s/he — and this is why:
When you have a subject and the verb to be, the word after the verb can be a predicate nominative (noun) or a predicate adjective. Predicate means verb, so a predicate nominative is a noun or pronoun following a linking verb and renaming, identifying, or explaining the sentence’s subject; a predicate adjective is an adjective following a linking verb and describing the sentence’s subject. Basically, a linking verb is a non-action verb linking the sentence’s subject with the adjective or noun following the verb (predicate). Some linking verbs include to be, to grow, to sound, to remain, to become, to seem, to stay, to act, to feel, and to appear. (Note: Some of these verbs can be action verbs, too.)
The girl was she (was links she to the girl; she is a predicate nominative that renames the subject of the sentence, so she must be in the subjective case).
I grow (no action) sad when I see him. Notice that grow is like became; if I were to write “She grew the plants,” then grew is an action verb and plants is a direct object. Substitute a pronoun for plants: She grew them (not they).
They felt (non-action verb) funny about the matter. Funny renames they. They felt (action verb) the carpet. Carpet is a direct object.
She sounded (non-action verb) angry. In fact, substitute all of the verbs above for sounded in this sentence. Here, angry is a predicate adjective, which describes she.
We feel bad (not badly) that we can’t come.
In the case of This is she, the subject of the sentence is This; the verb is is; and the noun, pronoun, or adjective following the to be verb essentially renames the subject, so that word needs to be in the subjective case: I, you, he, she, it, we, you (plural), they. Do you remember the objective case? (Me, you, him, her, it, us, you [plural], them). We don’t want to use the objective case here, as the sentence requires that we use a direct object or indirect object, for example — and linking verbs don’t use the objective case because there’s no action.
The robbers were they. Just invert the sentence to check yourself: They were the robbers. They renames robbers, so we use the subjective case.
While I certainly don’t expect that you use this particular grammar point in conversation, I highly suggest you absorb my teachings and, as alluded to above, feel free to inject them into your conversation at a cocktail party: Doing so will undoubtedly make you the belle or beau of the ball…maybe.
From (This is I signing off),
My English Quarters
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English