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What a strange construction is it? Why does it sound so strange to me, Ukrainian fella? For instance, why "him" instead of "he". And, first of all, what does it mean? I even cannot translate it correctly.

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Great question, although you might want to consider asking questions like this at the site for English Language Learners. You're welcome to stay at both places, but the other site was set up for questions like this one. –  J.R. Jun 30 '13 at 22:26

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Why "him" instead of "he"?

Because that is the idiom: like takes a complement in the objective case:

My son is like me.
Look at these pictures. This bird is like them.

Just here means "exactly". So just like him means "exactly like him".

When we say that a behavior or opinion or attitude is "just like" somebody, we are comparing that behavior/opinion/attitude to those which they typically exhibit: it is "just like" what we expect of them.

The structure here is what grammarians call a 'cleft construction', in which a phrase which occurs late in the 'basic sentence' is moved to become the complement of an It is clause, and is followed by the rest of the sentence.

To be late is just like him.  >> It is just like him to be late
              ^^^^^^^^^^^^^            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

So the sentence means "Being late is his typical behavior".

But it is not a simple statement of fact: it implies considerable irritation with that behavior, too. On the other hand, as J.R. points out, using the phrase with a positive behavior implies considerable admiration: "It's just like her to spend her weekends working for Habitats for Humanity."

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Just a footnote: This expression often carries some emotion with it, as you say, but that emotion is not always negative. For example, "Did you hear Julie baked a pie for her neighbors?" "She did? It's just like her to be so nice." The construction can be used to express approval as easily as disapproval. –  J.R. Jun 30 '13 at 22:40
    
@J.R. You're quite right, and I need to add that. –  StoneyB Jul 1 '13 at 0:00
    
I've understood it at last! Thank you a lot! –  Artem Merkotun Jul 6 '13 at 15:47

It's him instead of he because the pronoun is an object, not the subject.

As for the meaning, let me try to give a couple rough paraphrases:

He is late all the time!
It seems like we are always waiting for him.

Essentially, the speaker is saying that lateness is one of his character traits – this fellow is habitually late.

I can see how it would be an odd construct the first time you run across it. It's just like English to be so confounding.

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Thank you for the clear explanation! –  Artem Merkotun Jul 6 '13 at 15:49

Simply - "It is just like him to be late" displays a moment of recognition. The person "him" is typically late & this has just been re-affirmed. The word "him" rather than "he" is more specific to (or towards) that person. "him" points the finger, whereas "he" describes "him" - does, can, will, is, should . . etc. The sentence(s) could say "It is just like him to be late. He is always late."

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He is no less specific than him. –  Matt Эллен Jul 3 '13 at 10:45
    
@Matt Эллен. I disagree. Him highlights a person, directs at them whereas he will be followed by descriptors about him –  supine man Jul 3 '13 at 12:35
    
I don't see what that has to do with specificity. –  Matt Эллен Jul 3 '13 at 12:50
    
@Matt Эллен. What I'm trying to say is that him is specific to a person while he is specific about them. –  supine man Jul 3 '13 at 13:05
    
Should I have used the word immediate instead? –  supine man Jul 3 '13 at 13:10

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