Pronoun Predicament

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india, malayalam

There is a grammar rule that requires that the pronoun that follows the verb 'be' to be in the subjective case. I don't know how rigidly I should follow this rule, could you tell me what the answer to the following question is?

It took him years to realize that it was ____ he loved.
a. She
b. Her

  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    Try changing the word order:

    It took him years to realize that it was ____ he loved.

    It took him years to realize that she was {it that}/who he loved. Of course that sounds odd, but it is comprehensible.

    It took him years to realize that her was {it that}/who he loved. Awful!

    Simplifying: Do you prefer the sound of-
    she who he loved,
    her who he loved?


    Senior Member
    English English
    Hello Yellowevenings.
    If I was writing this, and thinking about it very hard, I would say it was she he loved. Possibly.
    If I was speaking, and not thinking about it, I would say it was her who he loved. Definitely.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'd say that both "it was she" and "it was her" are standard English, but that there is a difference in register.

    "It was she" is extremely correct, and very formal. I remember my mother using a similar construction once during a family meal: my brother and I laughed like drains.

    "It was her" is informal, and you're much more likely to hear it in everyday speech.

    If I'm writing something relatively formal (an essay or an important letter, for example), I simply avoid the construction, to avoid sounding either "too correct" or "too informal".

    But if you are forced to choose in an exercise, you should definitely opt for "it was she" unless you are told to use informal language.
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