person to whom I owe all my success is <she><her> [subject pronoun vs object pronoun]

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topoftherock

Senior Member
English-Britain
Hi guys, I read somewhere that we should always use the subject pronoun after linking verbs (even though native speakers don’t follow this). E.g “This is she” is grammatically correct, even though people will say “This is her”. Now, this is where I’m confused -Should we use “she” or “her” in the following sentence? -
The person to whom I owe all my success is she/her. I’m thinking it should be “she” because of the rule I learnt, however, I’m also thinking it should be “her” because of the object pronoun “whom”. Many thanks!
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "whom" has nothing to do with it.

    Write it as you would "The person .... is she/her."

    That doesn't answer your question, but I suspect that a writer using "to whom" would stick with proper, rather than popular, English.
     

    Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    Would you ever say: The person to whom.... is she?

    I wouldn't.

    The meaning is: I owe my success to her.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The 'rule' you learnt is wrong; it is not a rule. People say 'This is her'; so that's what's grammatical, that's the real 'rule', and that's what you should say.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I confess I'm never too sure about the grammar of things like this.

    But to give a simple answer to the question, everyone I know would use "her". :)
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If someone you knew rang your doorbell in the middle of the night, would you expect them to say (in reply to Who is it?) "It's I" or "It's me"?

    Most people would say It's me. Not many people would say It's I, and there are no grounds for saying that It's I (known as the predicative nominative) is the only grammatical thing to say.
    Language is what people speak and It's me is idiomatic English.

    The above applies to The person to whom I owe all my success is she/her. The idiomatic version is her.
    An exception applies to sentences like It was she who phoned me last night, where she sounds fine.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish/AE
    Hi guys, I read somewhere that we should always use the subject pronoun after linking verbs (even though native speakers don’t follow this). E.g “This is she” is grammatically correct, even though people will say “This is her”. Now, this is where I’m confused -Should we use “she” or “her” in the following sentence? -
    The person to whom I owe all my success is she/her. I’m thinking it should be “she” because of the rule I learnt, however, I’m also thinking it should be “her” because of the object pronoun “whom”. Many thanks!
    The "rule" you learned takes Latin grammar as model; since in Latin you use the "subject" pronoun after a linking verb, then you use a "subject" pronoun in English: The person to whom I owe all my success is she. The idea is that if you turn the sentence around, you must use "she:" She is the person to whom I owe all my success.

    But English is not Latin; more to the point, Latin had a strong case system, but "case" is not really a feature of English (or at least a very "weak" case system). In English, a subject pronoun is only required when you need to give a verb its "subject." In The person to whom I owe all my success is __, the verb "is" already has its subject (the noun phrase "The person to whom I owe all my success"), and so there's no reason to use the subject pronoun "she." In such cases, we use the objective pronoun: The person to whom I owe all my success is her.

    So, what should you use? That's up to you; syntax is neutral about it; either way, you get your point across.
     
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