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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.

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  • 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.
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 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
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 8:14
  • Someone might provide a link to one of those threads.
    – F.E.
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 8:15
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    @EdwinAshworth I cannot tell what the answer to my question is given that one.
    – okarin
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 18:12
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    @EdwinAshworth It would be very helpful if you could tell me what the answer to my question is, as I cannot understand what it is from the answer that you linked me to.
    – okarin
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 18:27

5 Answers 5

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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.

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  • In this case, please assume that "He Who Shall Not Be Named" is not a proper noun. Does that change the answer?
    – okarin
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 7:32
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    @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. Commented Jan 4, 2014 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. Commented Jan 4, 2014 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.
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 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). Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 19:35
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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.

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  • Would people in the U.S. say something different?
    – okarin
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 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
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 9:19
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    @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. Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 9:37
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    @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
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 9:37
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    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'). Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 19:26
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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.

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    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
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 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. Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 9:42
  • Fowler (see the above link) labels constructions such as 'I have named he who shall not be named' ungrammatical. Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 13:01
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    @Susan, I see what you’re saying now—I’ve un-downvoted. :-) Commented Jan 4, 2014 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". Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 19:40
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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.).

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  • 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. Commented Jan 7, 2014 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
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 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. Commented Jan 8, 2014 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
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 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'. Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 22:08
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Whom shall I say is calling? Whom is the indirect object, the dative case. I shall give this to whom? I found the right rule but didn't apply it right. He who must not be named: "he" is the direct object of "named". So neither "him" nor "whom" can go here.

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    This is nearby (about case of a question word) but doesn't address the OP's actual question. Can you update this to talk about a pronoun's case when it is ambiguously also part of a relative clause?
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 16:19
  • I just edited my remark. I think those rules are clear and easy, and "name" is not an exception: viz, "I named him 'George', "George" is the direct object, "him" is the indirect object, and when this sentence is made into a relative/adjectival clause, that all remains intact. The ambiguity would be, as stated by others here, if the entire phrase becomes a name itself, a proper name, as it were. Then "who" remains unaffected by how this proper name is used in a sentence. Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 16:50
  • Two hours later I think I have this figured out. The phrase uses "name" to mean "be referred to by name", not "given a name". You refer to someone by name as the indirect object: him or her. Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 18:59

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