The Grammarphobia Blog

How should you answer the phone?

Q: Please help! What should I say when I answer the phone and someone asks for me? I object to “It is I” because this sounds stuffy, but I don’t feel comfortable with “It’s me” because I was always told it’s wrong. What should I do?

A: If you want to be strictly correct, say “This is she” or (responding to a question) “Yes, it is I.” Many people find these too formal, however. A somewhat less stuffy response might be “Speaking” or “Yes, speaking” or “You’re speaking to her” or something like that.

But this is a case where English in changing. As I say in my grammar book Woe Is I, language is a living thing, always evolving, and “It is I” is just about extinct. In all but the most formal writing, “It’s me” is now acceptable.

A venerable old rule of English grammar (now considered rather formal) calls for using the nominative case (“I,” “he,” “she,” etc.) after the verb “to be.” (Examples: “It is I” instead of “It is me” or “It’s me”; “This is she” instead of “This is her”; and “That is he,” instead of “That is him” or “That’s him.)

Most of us find the old usage awkward, though I must admit that I still use “This is she” when someone asks for me on the phone. Old habits die harder than old rules.

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