Learn English – The use of “who has” or “who have” in a sentence


Consider the following example:

  • It is you who has taken the garbage out.

  • It is you who have taken the garbage out.

Does one use "has" or "have" in this sentence construction? Which of the two best fits? Which is grammatically correct?

Best Answer

OP's example: It is you who has/have taken the garbage out.

Issues involving personal pronouns that are the antecedent for a relative clause, such as in an it-cleft, are sometimes not so simple--that is, they can sometimes be notoriously unclear. There are well-known types of examples where such difficulties show up, such as: I saw he/him who would soon wear the crown.

The OP's question is about an it-cleft. And so, this post will address that.

It seems to me that reasonable grammatical rationales could probably be made for both versions.

Here are some somewhat related examples that are considered to be grammatical in today's standard English. In CGEL on page 459:

  • [9.i.a] It is I who love you.

  • [9.i.b] It is me who loves you.

  • [9.ii.a] It is I she loves.

  • [9.ii.b] It is me she loves.

And in CGEL on page 507:

(g) 3rd person override in cleft relatives


  • i. It is I [who am at fault]. - - [simple agreement]

  • ii. It is me [who is at fault]. - - [3rd person override]

Example [i] follows the general rules for relative clauses, with the relative pronoun who being construed as 1st person singular by virtue of its anaphoric relation to I. In the less formal [ii], however, the antecedent is in accusative case, and here the 1st person property is not carried over to who, the latter therefore takes on the default 3rd person feature.

So, some people can use the rationale involving "the general rules for relative clauses" to support the acceptability of:

  • 1) It is you who have taken the garbage out.

While some people can use the rationale that the "you" in the main clause ("It is you") is in accusative case, and so the cleft's relative clause can take the "default 3rd person feature" (whether singular or plural, er, that could be subject to discussion too), and so:

  • 2) It is you who has taken the garbage out.

I suspect that context could have a strong influence on the choice: A plural "you" could prefer the plural "have", and a singular "you" could prefer a singular "has". The style and register could also affect the choice.

I think people could make stronger (or weaker) grammatical arguments and rationales to support one position or the other. And perhaps they could provide the corresponding contexts to support those positions, and perhaps also provide some vetted grammatical sources--which would also be nice.

(Aside: Questions like this one, which are asked by brand-new members, tend to raise some suspicion: Is this an interesting question that is innocently asked? or, Is the asker a linguistics student trying to pull on a tail or two? Yea, I be paranoid, as I be stuck on this tree of woe.)

Note that CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL).

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