“It was her” or “it was she”, explaining cleft sentences
There are so many mind challenging grammar in English for beginners to digest correctly like the one that discussed about the correct use of former and latter in the sentence, however one of the most confusing parts of English grammar is to understand cleft sentences. You may notice that even native speakers sometimes also use cleft sentences not exactly according to the books. So the short answer is both “it was him” and “it was he” are correct, the former is correct as a spoken grammar and the latter as a subjective used in cleft sentence. Now let me explain more.
So the whole point of learning cleft sentences is to twist the sentence in the way that we emphasise more on a certain word. Here is an example:
Catherine missed the flight today.
Now let’s put more emphasis on Catherine, because who missed the flight is the point of the conversation. It was Catherine who missed the flight today. In the first example, we still don’t know which part of the sentence is important, whether it is the flight, today or the person.
David took the money today.
Now let’s put more emphasis on David, because who took the money is the point of the conversation.
It was David who took the money today.
In the first example, we still don’t know which part of the sentence is important, whether it is the money, today or the person.
So the structure of the cleft sentence for our example is; it + be verb + subject + who relative case. For a subjective case we can use (he, she, I , they, etc), but as mentioned earlier in this article using “her” in the sentence is correct as a spoken grammar which makes more sense during the daily conversation, for that reason you can say it was him/her who took the money. However if you by any chance used he or she, like it was he who called me, this is still correct but less popular.
At the end the cleft clauses are only + subjects, you can use objects instead with the same sentence structure, for instance you can say it was the rain that ruined our plan yesterday, or those were my expensive shoes that I lost yesterday.
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