I have named him/he who shall not be named. Which of these is correct? I think it should be "him" because "him" is a direct object in this context. In this context, "him/he who shall not be named" is not a proper noun.

  • I've seen this type of question popping up on various forums recently. (Personal pronoun modified by a relative clause.) There might be one or two threads here on this forum. . . . – F.E. Jan 4 '14 at 8:12
  • I am new to English SE. I am simply looking for an answer to my question, if you know of somewhere else where I can find one, I would be happy to look there... I am not sure exactly what you are trying to get at. @F.E. – okarin Jan 4 '14 at 8:14
  • Someone might provide a link to one of those threads. – F.E. Jan 4 '14 at 8:15
  • As to which one to use, it probably depends on the context and on the register. – F.E. Jan 4 '14 at 8:17
  • What do you mean by the "register"? Also, I think all the context is in the sentence itself. There is a person who should not be named, and I have named him. – okarin Jan 4 '14 at 8:20

I this case, I believe "He Who Shall Not Be Named" is a set phrase, functioning a bit like proper name in this context. So you won't change that first word of it. Just like you won't change "I have named He-Man" to "I have named Him-Man" - the "He" is part of the object.

  • In this case, please assume that "He Who Shall Not Be Named" is not a proper noun. Does that change the answer? – okarin Jan 4 '14 at 7:32
  • 2
    @okarin, it is not a proper noun as such, but (especially since the Harry Potter books), it is so much a set phrase that many will be loath to change it in any way. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 4 '14 at 9:43
  • It's actually 'He Who Must Not Be Named' in the Harry Potter books, and Rowling uses it as a proper noun (which is HER prerogative), capitalising it and not changing case where conventional grammar would otherwise require it. Interestingly, therefore, saying 'He Who Must Not Be Named' is actually naming Voldemort. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 4 '14 at 12:53
  • @okarin - That's an important detail that should be included as part of your question, not buried in a comment beneath an answer. I'm glad you took the time to add it. – J.R. Jan 4 '14 at 13:04
  • @Edwin: In the Harry Potter books, the meaning is actually not "He Who Must Not Be Given a Name" but "He Whose True Name Must Not Be Spoken". See Merriam-Webster, second definition of name: to say the name of (someone or something). – Peter Shor Jan 4 '14 at 19:35

It needs to be I have named him who shall not be named. Him is the direct object of the verb in the main clause. The relative clause starting with who identifies the him but does not influence its (object) case.

Here is similar construction:

She made him who he is today. **

Note: You can use he in the main clause if he is the complement rather than the object of the verb:

It was he who told me.

Admittedly, this is formal English and I suspect most people (in the UK at least) would say:

It was him who told me.

**Edited: See the comment from and to Edwin Ashworth below.

  • Would people in the U.S. say something different? – okarin Jan 4 '14 at 9:12
  • I don't quite get this. In 'It was he who told me', 'he' seems to me to be the object. If not, what is the object of the verb 'was'? Hence, my thought is that 'It was him who told me' is correct. – WS2 Jan 4 '14 at 9:19
  • 1
    @WS2, ‘to be’ is a linking verb: it cannot take an object. It takes a predicate instead, which is (traditionally, and still at least optionally in current English) the same case as its subject. This is very clear in languages that have ‘proper’ case systems, but less so in English, where the logic behind the cases has been changing and breaking down over the past few centuries. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 4 '14 at 9:37
  • 2
    @WS2. Only transitive verbs such as make, see, hit, etc. can have direct objects. To be is an intransitive verb. In colloquial contexts I doubt that many people would answer the question Who told you? with It was he!, but some might be a little hesitant to use the object pronoun in such statements in very formal contexts. – Shoe Jan 4 '14 at 9:37
  • 2
    I have named him who shall not be named and She made him who he is today are very different structures; 'who shall not be named' is a relative clause whereas 'who he is today' is a reduced object complement ('the man (who) he is today'). – Edwin Ashworth Jan 4 '14 at 19:26

I have named (him/he) (who) shall not be named. The choices are:

I have named him whom shall not be named. and I have named he who shall not be named.

Substituting a different pair;

I have killed (them/those who(m) will not be killed, would become

I have killed them whom will not be killed. or I have killed those who will not be killed.

I have never seen this construction: them whom will not be killed, nor those whom will not be killed. I cannot support this usage.

It seems to be an illogical construction. I think the who complicates the phrase, as well as the implication that you've accomplished the linguistic impossibility.

I would argue that (he-who-shall-not-be-named) is your direct object.

I have named he who shall not be named. (acceptable)

However, as I cannot cite sources, I hope a linguist will hop in on this.

  • 1
    I understand the reasoning you are supplying, but I don't see an answer. Are you saying I have named he who shall not be named or I have named him who shall be named? – virmaior Jan 4 '14 at 8:02
  • This is a bit confusing, but if I understand you correctly, I'm afraid it's not correct. “I have named him whom shall not be named” is quite ungrammatical. “I have named he who shall not be named” is acceptable to most, but would fail with prescriptionists. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 4 '14 at 9:42
  • Fowler (see the above link) labels constructions such as 'I have named he who shall not be named' ungrammatical. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 4 '14 at 13:01
  • 1
    @Susan, I see what you’re saying now—I’ve un-downvoted. :-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 4 '14 at 13:37
  • It should clearly not be whom, as the rule is: if who(m) fills the role of both subject and object, use who. But him is only an object here, so I think it should be "him who shall not be named". – Peter Shor Jan 4 '14 at 19:40

Even though it is a bit of a set phrase, I would decline it (here, decline meaning change the word according to the case in which it is used -- rather than refuse).

Thus, I would say I have named him who shall not be named.

Seeing @AvnerShahar-Kashtan has given the opposite answer, I wonder if it depends on where one learned to speak English or how one speaks English. My English is American English, and I tend to maintain the proper uses of subjunctives and to decline foreign words as they decline in their own languages as best I can when using them in English (i.e. alumni for the plural of alumnus and alumnae for the feminine plural, etc.).

  • Surely you wouldn't say: "I've just seen Him-Man at the cinema"? If He who must not be named / He Who Must Not Be Named / He who shall not be named is a multi-word proper noun, it is caseless. If it is considered to be a post-modified personal pronoun, it should be written in the appropriate case. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 7 '14 at 0:23
  • He-Man is unequivocally a proper name. I consider he who must not be named to be an idiom and thus subject to conjugation. – virmaior Jan 8 '14 at 1:24
  • But J K Rowling doesn't, at least in her books: <<. . . treat "[He Who Must Not Be Named]" as a single entity . . . in Harry Potter. Wizards always refer to Voldemort as He Who Must Not Be Named. They wouldn't say "Death Eaters pledge allegiance to Him Who Must Not Be Named." He who must not be named is taken as a single entity, as a name itself. As such, the pronoun doesn't change.>> As with Lloyds and Lloyd's (and Waterstones Bookshops), I'd say it's her call. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 8 '14 at 8:41
  • I haven't read those books, but I've known the idiom... so I'm not sure how it becomes the call of an author who uses an already existing idiom in a particular way. If the asker is referring to Harry Potter then surely he should copy the original author's intent. – virmaior Jan 8 '14 at 12:02
  • So should we not capitalise Batman because the word was pressed into a different usage from the original military one? I suspect more people have heard of J K Rowling than Bill Finger. I'd say that both 'batman' and 'Batman' are allowable terms, but I've never come across 'Batmen'. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 8 '14 at 22:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.