In English, we could answer the question "Who ate the cake?" with

It was him.

I don't know the reason why we use the accusative "him", even though the person is the subject of eating the cake, not the object.

In German, is it the same?

Wer aß den Kuchen? Es war ihn.


3 Answers 3


German is different and uses the nominative:

Er war's. Er war es. Das war er.

Note the word order; es can't be in initial position here.

  • 5
    Colloquial, impolite but used by children: "Der war's! ;)
    – Takkat
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 6:57
  • Agree. And addendum: Not really sure, but I think "Meine Schuld!" will sometimes be used where in English one would say "It was me!" ("Ich war´s!") (in addition to "[That was] my fault!"). I.e. translating "It was me! I did it!" with "Meine Schuld! Das war ich!" appears more natural to me than the obvious solution "Ich war´s! Ich hab das getan!". Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 9:31
  • 2
    Technically one could probably also say "Es war (der) [Name]".
    – haxor789
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 9:32
  • 1
    "Es war er" klingt zwar nicht besonders gut, aber falsch ist es nicht.
    – Paul Frost
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 22:35

In English as well as in German the correct case is Nominativ and its respective counterpart in English. It is true that colloquially one might use "It is me" and in fact a vast majority use it that way. If you are studying in Oxford or Cambridge, though, you will be trained to answer "Who is this" by "It is I".

The same with independent clauses, i.e.:

It is I who have learned english. correct
It is me who have learned english. incorrect

In this case the latter is not even colloquially possible but outright wrong.

In german this distinction between colloquial use of the object case and grammatically correct nominative doesn't exist, always Nominativ is used:

Ich war das.


The verb "sein" or to be in English is known as a linking verb. This links the nominative and the predicate nominative together.

In English you would say "It was I" or "It was he, (who at the cake). That's why in German too you would use "Er war's." or "Er war es, (der den Kuchen aß).

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