How to Answer the Phone: This is She/He or This is Her/Him?

–May I please speak to Rachel?

–This is she—or is it her?

I am sure that all of us have received a phone call like this at some point in our lives, but what exactly is the correct way to answer the question? It can be quite tricky, especially since so many people today do not answer it correctly.

Before I tell you the correct way to answer this question, I want to walk through the reasons why the answer is what it is. But, brace yourself because it gets a little technical.

For starters, let’s break down the sentence “This is she/her.”

“This” is clearly our subject. That is not too hard to identify.

this-is-he-or-this-is-him“Is” is our verb in the sentence, but it is important to recognize what kind of verb it is. “Is” in our sentence is functioning as a linking verb. Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence to an equivalent word in the sentence, a word of the same grammatical unit. When answering the question, “May I please speak to Rachel?” you are equating yourself to the person for whom the caller is asking, i.e., Rachel.

So, we’ve analyzed the subject and verb. This is the moment of truth: do we pick “she” or “her?” Now, to answer this, we need to look at the function that the word in this place will serve. “She” is a nominative pronoun, in other words a subject, and “her” is an objective pronoun, i.e., an object. So, what should come after the linking verb “is”? A subject or an object?

Well, remember, “linking verbs” connect EQUAL grammatical units, so if “this” is a subject, we will need another subject to follow our linking verb. Our sentence will appear “subject-linking verb-subject.” Therefore, we must pick “she.” You can also figure out which of these two words to pick by remembering that linking verbs do not take objects, so it cannot be “her.”

And another way to think about it is that you could accomplish the same thing by saying, “I am Rachel.” Instead, you are substituting “I” for “this” and “Rachel” for the nominative pronoun “she.”

Tricks

The easiest way to remember which one to choose is to just remember,

  • “Is” is acting as a linking verb.
  • Linking verbs cannot take objects.
  • “Her” is an object, so it must be “she.”

This goes for other variations of the question too,

–May I speak to Mike?

–This is he.

–Oh, so you are the one who keeps calling?

–That is I.

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