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Thread: case of pronoun

  1. Bruce Floyd
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    #1

    case of pronoun

    I am currently reading a book about Dante, and in the last few days I have come across the following two sentences in the book:

    1. When he parted that morning from the old man's cell, he paused to
    behold "he" who held open the heavy-timbered door.
    2. "Woe unto "he" who rises in the morning to following strong drink."

    I am curious about the use of he--I marked the ones in question-- in these two sentences. Why not him? The only explanation I can conjure is that in both cases he is in apposition to who, the subject of the clause, and therefore must agree in case. In other words, the entire clause is used as the direct object.

    And while we are on pronouns, I am puzzled by the use of the possessive in certain cases. For example, one would probably write, "Our house, yours and mine, . . ., but one would not say "yours house" or "mine house." In short, why could one not write, "Our house, your and my, . . ."? I agree that the latter choice sounds barbarous, and that fact alone might be enough for us to eschew its use.

    Sincerely,

    Bruce Floyd

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    #2

    Re: case of pronoun

    Hello Bruce, welcome to Using English!

    I would agree that those sentences are rather strange. As you suggest, the correct forms would be:

    1. When he (de)parted that morning from the old man's cell, he paused to
    behold him | who held open the heavy-timbered door.

    2. "Woe unto him | who rises in the morning to following strong drink."

    It seems to me that the writer may indeed have decided that the case of the relative pronoun should somehow affect the case of the antecedent; on which basis he would presumably recast (googling at random on "he whom"):

    3. "For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God".

    as

    4. "For him whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God."

    Or perhaps it was a case of hypercorrection, after the pattern of:

    5. "He who laughs last laughs loudest."

    On your second question, I would take "my", "your", "his", etc. as "possessive determiners" or "possessive adjectives", while "mine", "yours", "his", etc. are possessive pronouns, e.g.

    6. It's my book, not yours.

    Here, "my" functions as an adjective, but "yours" functions as a noun.

    Have a good evening,

    MrP

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