Richard-Business Eng
Professional Teacher
A question best answered by an English grammarian or linguist I'm perplexed, actually no more than usual, but specifically confounded by a burning question that I seem to be unable to resolve. So, with that said, here follows the burning question: Which of the following two sentences is/are correct? 1 It is only I who know what is necessary for me. 2 It is only I who knows what is necessary for me. Does the verb "know" need to be in the form related to the first person "I" or the third person "who". If you could provide the grammar rule in addition to your answer, it would be much appreciated. I believe the correct sentence is sentence 2, but I wouldn't be too surprised to find out otherwise. The only other question I might have is "How long will it take for me to master my own native language :)"
Jul 26, 2014 11:06 PM
Answers · 25
I would not be so sure. A lot of grammarians have written about this, but there seems no consensus. For the general reader who does not have time to go through all the grammar books, here is an entry from Wikipedia, quoting one grammarian : In relative clauses, who (like other relative pronouns) takes the number (singular or plural) of its antecedent. Who also takes the person (first, second or third) of its antecedent:[2] I, who am having a hard time right now, won't be able to help you. I, a tired old man who is fed up with all your nonsense, refuse to help you. note 2 is : Bernstein, The Careful Writer, Atheneum (1986), p. 479. I who am your fellow countryman. I who love Rome. And you would all be too highbrow to know Tom Jones's "I who have nothing". Would you say, "I who has nothing"? I am almost certain Fowler said the verb should follow I, unless you put 'a man' in between! Let those who are truly erudite come forward to enlighten us!
July 26, 2014
Yes, the verb should agree with the relative pronoun 'who'. However, you have to be careful and realize that 'who' can be either singular or plural. For example, in your comment to Su.Ki., you said "English speakers who often answer questions," which used 'who' in a plural sense, so it took 'answer' instead of 'answers'. Because 'I' is always singular, it takes the singular relative pronoun 'who', and is conjugated as a third-person singular.
July 27, 2014
It doesn't take a linguist or grammarian KNOWS is correct
July 26, 2014
I'd agree with you on this, Richard. I believe that the verb needs to agree with the relative pronoun 'who'.
July 26, 2014
I agree with Ben and the others who think that the verb in the subordinate clause should agree with the antecedent in the main clause. Consider this example: "We fired the managers who were responsible for the inventory shortages." "were" agrees with "managers". "We fired the manager who was responsible for the inventory shortages." Using "It is only..." instead of "we fired...." doesn't change the rule. I find it hard to believe that there is any scholarly debate about this but I would be happy to consider and study any references to such debates among grammarians and linguists.
July 27, 2014
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