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  1. Let he who believes in this prophet speak now what he knows.
  2. Let him who believes in this prophet speak now what he knows.
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What if we remove 'Let'.... as in 1. He who believes in this prophet must speak what he knows. 2. Him who believes in this prophet must speak what he knows. –  user90033 Sep 2 at 4:15

3 Answers 3

To analyze this situation, it helps to separate the who clause (who believes in this prophet) from the main clause (let him/he now speak what he knows) and then analyze each clause separately.

Since let him speak now is correct, let him [who believes] speak now is also correct; and since let he speak now is not correct, let he [who believes] speak now is also not correct. Your second example is therefore the best one, grammatically speaking:

"Let him who believes in this prophet speak now what he knows."

Ngrams shows that Let him who is also significantly more common than Let he who:

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I happen to agree with you, but not everyone will. There is for example, a Deep Space Nine episode entitled "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." –  z7sg Ѫ Sep 16 '11 at 13:56
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@z7sg, to me "Let He Who" does not offend the ears, still; ngrams shows typical pattern that you can expect for wrong usage ngrams.googlelabs.com/… (also looking through google books shows very few results) –  Unreason Sep 16 '11 at 14:06
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@Unreason COCA results for "let [pp*] who" LET HE WHO:12, LET HIM WHO:9,LET SHE WHO:3,LET US WHO:1. Odd that this is so markedly different from the ngram. –  z7sg Ѫ Sep 16 '11 at 15:08
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Him preserves syntactical consistency; let that be a guide as regards style. –  Cerberus Sep 16 '11 at 16:13
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The "let he who..." construction has been codified by the King James Bible and thus it trumps grammatical concerns. That is, the speaker is drawing an allusion to the passage in question (is without sin...). –  The Raven Sep 16 '11 at 17:29

Ok, let's look at this in terms of grammar. After all, the question asked which sentence is grammatically correct.

First, let's get rid of some words that may be confusing the issue. "Who believes in this prophet" is describing, or defining, he/him. It is a restrictive clause. Its only purpose is to define he/him. As a restrictive clause, it is a descriptive clause. We can remove it to figure out the him/he problem.

So what is he/him in this sentence? It is the direct object of the verb "let." As with any object, he/him is answering the question "what?" (for non-people) or "whom?" (for people). This gives us "Let what?" and "Let whom?" The answer to the question is an object.

Ok, so we need an object pronoun because the word is serving as an object of "let." What are the object pronouns? They are: me, you, HIM, her, it, us, them.

Look! "Him" is an object pronoun, so if we need an object, which we do in this sentence, we use "him." As such, "Let him who believes in this prophet speak now what he knows" is correct.

But wait a second! Isn't he/him the subject of "speak"? No. If that were the case, we would use "speaks," which is the third person singular form of "speak.' The sentence would read "he...speaks," but it doesn't here.

Now, the simple, practical solution: If we remove all the descriptive expressions from this sentence and pare it down to its roots, we get "Let HIM speak." I dare anyone to say "Let he speak" is correct.


Neil: Regarding speaker's judgment and usage: Sure, people can, and do, speak any way they choose. However, the question was about grammatical correctness. I'm not sure what "clause" you're referring to, but your example also demonstrates the point I'm making. In your example expression "They hoped for him to win," again, we see that "him" is serving as an object--in this case as the object of the preposition "for." We can ask, "For whom?" The answer will be an object.

If you need an object, whether the object of a transitive verb or the object of a preposition, your choice is "him," not "he." "He" is a subject pronoun; "him" is an object pronoun. This confuses many people, so I'll simplify: If you need the subject of a verb, use "he." If you need an object, use "him."

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See my comment to the above answer: although it looks logical, in effect what you're doing here is making your argument fit the circumstances. It's perfectly within the bounds of what English does in other cases for a word outside the clause to govern the choice of he/him. –  Neil Coffey Sep 17 '11 at 3:24

I appreciate David Bowman's answer above, with one exception: he writes,

Isn't he/him the subject of 'speak'? No. If that were the case, we would use 'speaks,' which is the third person singular form of 'speak.

Actually, the "him" is the subject of "speak". I don't know the terminology in English, but it is akin to the accusative subject of an infinitive in Latin (if I remember correctly).

It is very common for a direct object to serve also as the subject of a following verb in its barest form (the "infinitive" in other languages, though usually without the "to" in English):

Watch me do this
Help me (to) do this
Let me do this; etc.

The "me" is the object of "watch", "help", and "let"; and the subject of "to do" (for I am the one 'doing', no?).

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Yet this is wrong. Yes, the him will do the speaking, but that's not the active verb here. Think about the construction a little more in Let him speak the verb is let so the question is who is doing the permitting (i.e., letting), and the answer is not the him who is going to be speaking. Thus, him speak is a type of subordinate clause. The same thing happens in watch me. I don't watch me. An implied subject you gets the command –  virmaior Feb 1 at 1:37
    
@virmaior, it is not wrong, actually. It is perfectly true that him in ‘let him speak’ is the object of ‘let’, but the subject of ‘speak’. The fact that ‘that he speaks’ has been reduced to an infinitive construction here does not change the subject of the verb. The subject of ‘let’ is implicitly ‘you’, but that is irrelevant to the subject of ‘speak’, which is what Kevin’s beef was. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 1 at 11:37
    
@Kevin, I have taken the liberty of editing your answer to add paragraphs and clarity. Also, I don't know the term for this in English grammar, either; but within Chinese grammar, the construction is known as a pivotal sentence, and the object-cum-subject is the pivot. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 1 at 11:45
    
@JanusBahsJacquet fair enough. I see what you are saying. –  virmaior Feb 1 at 13:48

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