(i) It’s me who is in charge.
(ii) It’s I who am in charge.
(iii) It’s me who am in charge.
(iv) It’s I who is in charge.
If you’re a native English speaker, you’ll recognize instinctively that (i) and (ii) sound right, whereas (iii) and (iv) sound wrong.
But why? In each sentence, we have the relative pronoun who which is the subject of the predicate [to be in charge]. And each who refers to the same person: me, the first-person singular in the context. The first-person singular of the verb to be is I am. So how could me is in charge possibly be right?
Syntactically speaking It’s me who is in charge is a mess. Indeed, some purists would say It’s I who am in charge is the only correct sentence of the four. Yet for most of us the combination of:
me who (1st person) + is (3rd person)
has become so anchored in our minds that it is hard-wired as being just fine.
C’est moi qui…
The reason this matters for us as learners of French is that French behaves differently. French identifies the qui in C’est moi qui… (correctly) as the person doing the speaking and so the verb that follows is in the first-person singular:
C’est moi qui suis responsable.
C’est moi qui suis coupable.
C’est moi qui vais faire la présentation.
This creates one of those tricky situations where our instincts betray us. To an English speaker, those French examples can look just wrong, even though we know them to be right. When we have time to think slowly, rationally, we can do a school book exercise and complete the sentence C’est moi qui… correctly every time. But when we’re thinking fast, in the heat of conversation, for example, our deeper-layed instincts take over, and we blurt out the third-person singular.
Using Flash Cards can be a helpful way of drilling yourself: the need to answer questions creates a little bit of tension that simulates the pressure of a live situation.
Coûte que coûte
Coûte que coûte is a useful expression that we often hear at the moment:
L’objectif pour cette deuxième vague est de tenter coûte que coûte d’éviter les déprogrammations, qui ont laissé des traces après la première vague.
Faire vivre le monde de la musique, coûte que coûte !
It comes from the coûter – to cost, but its meaning is not narrowly financial – it’s more “whatever it takes”.
There’s a twin expression vaille que vaille from the verb valoir -to be worth.
Devant un tel afflux de patients, les hôpitaux et le personnel de soin des unités Covid tentent vaille que vaille de faire face.
Alors que les dates de sortie des superproductions américaines sont repoussées toujours plus loin, au printemps voire à l’automne 2021, quelques films, surtout français, continuent vaille que vaille à offrir de la nouveauté dans des salles obscures.
Vaille que vaille doesn’t have a close English equivalent and attempts to translate it typically involves transposing expressions such as “somehow”, “as best as they can”, “struggle to” or “soldiering on”.