Is the verb ‘be’ always a linking verb?

Sarp84224

Senior Member
Learning English
As the title of the thread, is the verb ‘be’ always a linking verb?

According to prescriptive grammar, can an object pronoun ever follow the verb ‘be’ or any of its variants?
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    As the title of the thread, is the verb ‘be’ always a linking verb?

    According to prescriptive grammar, can an object pronoun ever follow the verb ‘be’ or any of its variants?
    Are you asking about such sentences as
    "I'm looking for someone called David - Are you him?"
    "If anyone telephones you and asks you for money, that'll be me"?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    As the title of the thread, is the verb ‘be’ always a linking verb?
    According to prescriptive grammar, can an object pronoun ever follow the verb ‘be’ or any of its variants?
    Yes, it’s always a linking verb (copula).

    Yes, an object pronoun can follow it:

    It was him [that] they were looking for.
    Was it her [that] you gave it to?
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Yes, it’s always a linking verb (copula).
    As noted above, I disagree.

    Consider these:
    The people in the queue were waiting for the bus.
    Five counties can be seen from the top of the hill.
    The beavers are building a new dam.
    The tower was built in 1372.


    Do you have a linking verb there, or do you have an auxiliary verb in a compound tense?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Sorry. I didn’t see that post.

    :thumbsup: You’re quite right. I wasn’t thinking of that use. To be is copular when not auxiliary (as in verb forms in the progressive aspect or passive voice) or existential (e.g. meaning I am/I exist).
     

    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    Yes, it’s always a linking verb (copula).

    Yes, an object pronoun can follow it:


    It was him [that] they were looking for.
    Was it her [that] you gave it to?
    Sorry to be pedantic, but I did state prescriptive grammar. So your statements should be:

    It was he...

    Was it she...
     

    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    Am I correct in thinking that even according to prescriptive grammar the following is correct:

    The person you are looking for is him/her.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Am I correct in thinking that even according to prescriptive grammar the following is correct:
    I think it is a mistake to believe that prescriptive grammar is a comprehensive term that covers all the ideas that people might have about whether or not some construction is normal.

    If they have any utility at all, prescriptive and descriptive are adjectives that can be used to say something about whether somebody is more interested in following the principles and guidance suggested by generations of grammarians or more interested in listing, describing, and accepting the things that people actually write and say. As far as I can tell, most people who post comments in this forum are somewhere in the middle of the prescriptivist-descriptivist spectrum.

    The person you are looking for is him/her.
    This certainly sounds normal to me.
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    … your statements should be:

    It was he...

    Was it she...
    Not if the pronoun is the object of a preposition.


    It was him it was stolen from (it was stolen from him – not ‘from he’)
    It was her they gave it to (they gave it to her – not ‘to she’)

    Or would you prefer “It was we the man was talking to”? :eek:

    But it would be possible to stick to that obsolescent ‘rule’ by using whom as the object of the preposition:


    It was he from whom it was stolen
    Was it she to whom they gave it?
    It was we to whom the man was talking (but this still sounds dreadful!)
     
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    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    Not if the pronoun is the object of a preposition.

    It was him it was stolen from (it was stolen from him – not ‘from he’)
    It was her they gave it to (they gave it to her – not ‘to she’)

    Or would you prefer “It was we the man was talking to”? :eek:

    But it would be possible to stick to that obsolescent ‘rule’ by using whom as the object of the preposition:


    It was he from whom it was stolen
    Was it she to whom they gave it?
    It was we to whom the man was talking (but this still sounds dreadful!)
    They are subject complements and as you clearly demonstrated the more formal structure of the two sentences come across as dreadful. I’m not disagreeing with you that most people would say or write the sentences you mentioned, I was just stating how prescriptive grammar determines such sentences should be structured.

    What about the sentence:

    I think the person who is going to finish last in the darts league is going to be him!

    Which verb determines ‘him’?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Prescriptive grammar loses currency when a large majority pays no attention to it :) (As Safire pined many ears ago, "When enough of us/them are wrong we/they're right) "Prescriptive" grammar also forbids the splitting of infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions (and other things) as "rules" that speakers will not longer put up with :D
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Absolutely. But to address the question in #11…

    Why have you repeated “is going to”? If you wanted to use the outdated style, it would be:


    I think the person who is going to finish last in the darts league is going to be he.
    He is the person who is going to finish last.
     

    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    Are you asking about such sentences as
    "I'm looking for someone called David - Are you him?"
    "If anyone telephones you and asks you for money, that'll be me"?
    Yes. Should it be “are you he?”And “that’ll be I”?

    Or, like I posted, “The person you are looking for is him.”

    Should it really be “he” since the sentence could be, “He is the person you are looking for.”
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Should it be “are you he?”And “that’ll be I”?
    No.
    “The person you are looking for is him.”
    :thumbsup:
    Should it really be “he” since the sentence could be, “He is the person you are looking for.”
    No.
    Seriously, nobody uses the subject case after "to be": there are plenty of explanations, grammatical and by use, for this and you have been given some above.

    You can justify "me (him/her/us/them)" by saying me is (i) the disjunctive pronoun, (ii) It is a version of "myself" (which is the same in nominative and accusative); (iii) it is the emphatic nominative pronoun (iv) it is in the locative case (v) it is a complement in the dative (vi)"When enough of us are wrong they're right" #12. (vii) "I" would be formal and awkward and old-fashioned, (viii) etc.

    A: Who is the person who's going to London today?"
    B: "It's me." This is correct, it is normal, it is idiomatic.

    The only time you need say or write "It is I" is if you are in an exam based on prescriptive grammar. Once you have finished the exam, you may return to normal.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, it’s always a linking verb (copula).

    Yes, an object pronoun can follow it:


    It was him [that] they were looking for.
    Was it her [that] you gave it to?
    I suspect I disagree. I don't often use the words 'always' or 'never' when talking about English grammar.

    What about 'I think therefore I am'?

    Is 'I am' linking something to something else?
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    And what about 'be' in 'My son is being rather naughty at the moment, in which the verb is referring to his behaviour.
    :) Interesting exception. I'm not sure what formal grammar says about that.

    There are two ways to analyze that sentence:
    1) My son {is being} naughty. -> Now 'being' acts like an action verb, similar to 'My son is acting naughty.'
    2) My son is {being naughty} -> Now 'being naughty' is a gerund phrase and 'is' is a linking verb.

    Testing 2) with inverse copular construction "Being naughty is my son" gives a grammatical form with identical meaning (I think), which proves that this interpretation is possible.
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    No.
    :thumbsup:

    No.
    Seriously, nobody uses the subject case after "to be": there are plenty of explanations, grammatical and by use, for this and you have been given some above.

    You can justify "me (him/her/us/them)" by saying me is (i) the disjunctive pronoun, (ii) It is a version of "myself" (which is the same in nominative and accusative); (iii) it is the emphatic nominative pronoun (iv) it is in the locative case (v) it is a complement in the dative (vi)"When enough of us are wrong they're right" #12. (vii) "I" would be formal and awkward and old-fashioned, (viii) etc.

    A: Who is the person who's going to London today?"
    B: "It's me." This is correct, it is normal, it is idiomatic.

    The only time you need say or write "It is I" is if you are in an exam based on prescriptive grammar. Once you have finished the exam, you may return to normal.
    It should be noted that there are almost no grammarians or linguists who say they are "prescriptive". The "prescriptive" folks are journalists and politicians. Gwynne, famous for his book and its being adopted by Gove, is a retired businessman with no university training in linguistics, grammar, or teaching.

    Pullum on Gwynne, the author of the prescriptive Gwynne's Grammar:

    //A number of people have written to ask me why I have made no public comment on the preposterous old fraud Nevile Gwynne and his highly publicized recent book Gwynne's Grammar.

    Well, one reason is that a certain amount of collapse in the will to live had come over me when contemplating the sheer dopiness of Mr Gwynne's pontifications...//

    Grammarians look at patterns of grammar, including issues of register, informality, etc. What is. Just as a zoologist looks at what animals' physiology is like and what they actually do.

    There is no such thing as "prescriptive zoology"-- that tells us what animals OUGHT to be like and how they OUGHT to behave! These points are due to Pullum, the famous linguist. These points apply to grammar and linguistics.
     
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    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    No.
    :thumbsup:

    No.
    Seriously, nobody uses the subject case after "to be": there are plenty of explanations, grammatical and by use, for this and you have been given some above.

    You can justify "me (him/her/us/them)" by saying me is (i) the disjunctive pronoun, (ii) It is a version of "myself" (which is the same in nominative and accusative); (iii) it is the emphatic nominative pronoun (iv) it is in the locative case (v) it is a complement in the dative (vi)"When enough of us are wrong they're right" #12. (vii) "I" would be formal and awkward and old-fashioned, (viii) etc.

    A: Who is the person who's going to London today?"
    B: "It's me." This is correct, it is normal, it is idiomatic.

    The only time you need say or write "It is I" is if you are in an exam based on prescriptive grammar. Once you have finished the exam, you may return to normal.
    I’m not disputing with what you have posted, but I was referring to the “rules” of prescriptive grammar.

    In the two sentences you used, the word “be” is being used as a linking verb?

    In the sentence:

    The person you are looking for is him.

    Is the pronoun “him” the object of the preposition “for”?
     
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