The first person for this year who expressed their irritation to me about a perceived incorrect usage wrote an eloquent email about the misuse of identify, as in:

We can identify what it is.

This should be either,

We can identify it.


We can determine what it is.


To determine something is to come to a conclusion about its nature.

To identify something is to recognise it as belonging to a particular category or kind.


You can come to a conclusion about what something is but you cannot identify what it is. The notion of being a particular kind of thing is already in the verb to identify and so this construction is a kind of tautology.  Not that the English language minds repetitions.


The alignment of identify with determine seems to have gained increased currency since the 1950s. 

Sue Butlerdetermine