There was a question on the test that I was not sure which option was correct. The question is

Fill in the blank choosing the most appropriate word.

Duke is not ( ) we think him to be.

who / how / where / what

It seems to me that "how", "where", "what" could go into the blank, as I thought we could say;

  1. We think him to be nice. --> an adjective "nice" can be replaced with "how."
  2. We think him to be a doctor. --> a noun "a doctor" can be replaced with "what."
  3. We think him to be at home. --> an adverbial phrase "at home" can be replaced with "where."

And "who" sounds funny in an ordinary situation because we already know it is Duke. I chose "what" in the end.

Will someone please explain to me which one is correct, together with some explanation?

  • 1
    I suggest you ask this question on English Language Learners.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 25, 2013 at 11:50
  • 3
    The whole question is daft. How can someone seriously say 'Duke is not ( ) we think him to be.'? 'Duke is not ( ) we thought him to be.', maybe. (And all possibilities except perhaps 'how' then sound reasonable. 'Duke does not dress how we thought he would.' would be OK.) Aug 25, 2013 at 13:35
  • 1
    All options would work, but some are more appropriate. The most logical and common choice would be 'who'. LSATs (the standardized test for law school) are notorious for looking for he -best- of answers that ll work.
    – Mitch
    Aug 25, 2013 at 20:37

1 Answer 1


All of these could be correct depending on context. Your three examples show a good understanding of the different meanings. You could also say:

Duke is not who we think him to be. (We thought we knew Duke but that is not his real name, he is a spy.)

I suspect the question was testing your knowledge of the correct relative pronoun:

The man who ...
The table which ...
The place where ...

If that's the case it is a poorly worded question: you have demonstrated that any of the words are acceptable.

  • 2
    'Duke is not who we think him to be.' Compare the comment on a famous political situation: 'They say it's not as bad as they say it is.' Aug 25, 2013 at 23:02

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