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Assuming I want to smoke and I'm asking my friend for the lighter. But he doesn't have the lighter. Which one should be his response?

  • Ce n'est pas moi qui l'ai.
  • Ce n'est pas moi qui l'a.

Perhaps the grammatically correct answer contains more words, like: Ce n'est pas moi celui qui...

So my questions are:

  1. Which one amongst the 2 examples is preferable?
  2. Is there anything (more) correct?
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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The first one is correct. Finding references on this is not easy but I'll give it a shot.

The eigth version of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie states in its entry for “moi:

Il figure aussi dans certains tours particuliers, soit comme sujet, soit comme complément.

C'est moi qui vous en réponds.

Si c'était moi qui avais fait cela...

C'est de moi qu'il s'agit !

C'est à moi qu'il faudra vous adresser.

C'est moi qu'il a pris à partie.

Meaning that moi can become the subject in this particular case (on the contrary to English for instance, where you'd say It's me who knows).

You will also find here:

C’est, suivi d’un nom au pluriel ou d’un pronom autre que personnel, s’accorde avec celui-ci.

Meaning if c'est is followed by a personal pronoun (such as moi, if you're still following), then this pronoun dictates the person that will be used.

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I assume the second option is equivalent to the english version of: It's me (the one) who knows. –  Thanos Darkadakis Mar 10 at 10:27
1  
@ThanosDarkadakis yes except in French, moi enforces the first person. You would say C'est moi qui vais à Paris but C'est moi celui qui va à Paris. Hope this makes more sense. –  Pierre Arlaud Mar 10 at 10:29

The first one is correct, the second one is not.

In a more general way:

  • C'est moi qui” is grammatically equivalent to "je".

  • C'est toi qui” is grammatically equivalent to "tu".

So you will conjugate the following verb accordingly.

Ce n'est pas moi qui l'ai” can be seen as “Je ne l'ai pas” where the first person is obvious.

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The first example is correct and what most people would say. The second is incorrect.

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1  
Are there any references? e.g. a grammar book or something? –  Thanos Darkadakis Mar 10 at 6:58
    
I don't have my grammar books at hand right now, but the Dictionnaire de l'Académie (available online) writes « C'est moi qui en réponds. » –  fkraiem Mar 10 at 7:12
    
@ThanosDarkadakis, it isn't something doubtful for a native speaker although using the second form is in the top three corrections I've to make when my children speak (the other two are using regularly formed tenses for irregular verbs and using the conditionnel instead of the imparfait after si). –  Un francophone Mar 10 at 8:26
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Incidentally, the TLFi mentions the second form as "colloquial" (familier), but it is probably somewhat dated (it is accompanied by a quotation by Gide, from the 1920s). –  fkraiem Mar 10 at 8:28

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