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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, 2014 at 4:15
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    @user90033 - If you remove "Let" and add "must" you have changed the grammar. Oct 26, 2020 at 22:31

9 Answers 9

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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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    @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, 2011 at 15:08
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    Him preserves syntactical consistency; let that be a guide as regards style. Sep 16, 2011 at 16:13
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    It only trumps those concerns when one is actually making reference to the KJB, though. Otherwise, the KJB is not an English authority, and since common grammaticality here differs, it supersedes the KJB's grammar.
    – Daniel
    Sep 16, 2011 at 17:36
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    @The Raven and whoever upvoted that comment. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." KJV
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Sep 17, 2011 at 1:58
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    @NeilCofey: In conventional grammar, that is not taken as a clause, but as a special infinitive construction. Then the case is not particularly problematic, as the object of a preposition. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say it was an extension of this construction: I bought food for him to eat, where to eat is an attribute of food, which becomes clearer if we change the word order: I bought food to eat for him. Without an object that functions as the h ead of the infinitive, as in they hoped for him to win, the phrase is less transparent, but I think there is a connection. Mar 27, 2012 at 10:49
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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. Sep 17, 2011 at 3:24
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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, 2014 at 1:37
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    @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. Feb 1, 2014 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. Feb 1, 2014 at 11:45
  • @JanusBahsJacquet fair enough. I see what you are saying.
    – virmaior
    Feb 1, 2014 at 13:48
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The key to this is to realise that "let" takes the bare infinitive. If we replace "let" with "allow" you can see this more clearly.

Let him speak. (bare infinitive "speak")

Allow him to speak. (full infinitive "to speak")

If we use this change for the whole sentence we get:

Allow him who believes in this prophet to speak now what he knows.

The structure is:

Allow him (who believes in this prophet) to speak now what he knows.

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As others note, "he" is not the subject and shouldn't be there at all, and "speak" is not a subjunctive but an infinitive without "to."

We don't say "let we" and we shouldn't say "let he." In "let him who...," "him" is the object of "let" and "who" is the subject of "believes."

I get the argument about quoting a literary source, the way we quote Shakespeare's sometimes eccentric language. To be pedantic, one would identify a source and write: "Let he [sic] who is without sin...." (However, the King James Bible says: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone...."

It would be different with an indefinite pronoun: "let whoever believes in this prophet... / Let whoever is without sin...," because "believes" and "is" have to have a subject and "whomever" can't be a subject.

Or an interrogative pronoun: "Who do you believe is without sin?" (The mistake "whom" in this construction is common even in prestigious publications.)

0

Let= to allow someone to do something

Let is a verb. It is followed by an object pronoun, not a subject pronoun.

Let me go. Let him do. Let them play. Let him speak

Let him speak - You is understood/implied subject. 'Let' is a verb. 'Him' is the object.

Let him speak now.

Let him speak now what he knows.

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

-1

Albeit belatedly, I wanted to give my opinion. This is a question that has troubled me for some time and I think I now have it clear in my mind. For what it's worth, I lean more to the downvoted answers but, ultimately, I don't completely agree with any.

Yes, I think it's 'Let him' (probably) but him is not, in fact, an object pronoun; it's more because we tend to prefer the object version after 'let' when used in this way. Here, it is not a verb meaning allow but part of the imperative construction for anything other than the second person.

Ultimately, the speaker is not imploring the crowd to allow the believer to speak, he is imploring the believer himself to speak. And the believer (he/him) is therefore the subject of the verb.

To illustrate, if I and my friends were walking down the street and a man blocked our path, I might shout at him, "Let us pass!". I'm telling him to do the 'letting'; 'us' is the object. However, if he refuses and we cast him aside, I would turn to my friends and say, "Let us pass!" The words are the same but the values have changed. 'Let' helps the words flow and 'us' is the subject because no-one is doing any 'letting'. Instead, I might say, "Now we pass!" or just, "We pass!". Incidentally, before passing, I might also say 'Let us pray (for him)!" Again, we are the subject but no-one ever said "Let we pray!" This is probably because 'us' sounds better given that we do use 'let' as a verb in its own right.

Fundamentally, the use of the object pronoun in the imperative is, I believe, a convention. We use 'Let' in the same way as 'May' or 'Might' as in 'Might we pray' (subject pronoun there) but English stutters a bit around imperatives in the first and third person. Most of these scenarios come from translated phrases. Assuming Marie Antoinette did in fact say, "Let them eat cake," (note the object pronoun), her French would have been, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" and 'ils' is very much a subject pronoun. There is no 'allow' verb in sight.

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  • Hello, Jeremy. I've written elsewhere "The prescriptive 'over-rule' is that he/him (who is without sin), which links the letting and the casting the first stone, has its case governed by the letting (ie is in the objective: him) rather than by the casting the first stone. But (though hits are surprisingly low) Google stats indicate the 'incorrect' choice occurs three times as often as the 'correct'. Will the rule change!?" There is a subclass of idioms called extragrammatical idioms, where the grammar is at best dubious but the expression idiomatic. There's also hypercorrection... Oct 29, 2023 at 15:49
  • And accepted grammar is not the fixed system many of us might be more comfortable with, and certainly not always logical or consistent. In cases where many adopt the 'incorrect' choice, idiomaticity can eventually drive acceptability/grammaticality. The bunfights occur when the usage is in flux, as here. Oct 29, 2023 at 15:51
  • The analysis for "Let us pass" with us as a "subject" is wrong. Us is always an objective pronoun, and the Let is the imperative but directed to us not to a third party. It implies "We should not refrain from going."
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 29, 2023 at 18:45
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I think it's ... Let he who.

Because what is this sentence really trying to say? It's not really about letting anyone do something. it's about who's the most legitimate person to talk about something. if someone were blocking someone's path I would say let him come up to the microphone. but in this case it's not about somebody being restricted. let is a kind of an old-school way for making a generalized proclamation, and is essentially meaningless. It's really a timeless statement. Who should get the job? He who is most qualified. Not him who is most qualified. Who is most qualified? He is. Well, give him the job already.

But that seems to work against my point. Give him the job. But then again this is not about a physical action done in real time. This is not about letting somebody come up to the microphone. This is about the eternal question of who is most qualified, phrased in a specific way. simplify to support the timeless quality. get rid of let. he who is the most qualified should speak, now and forever. not him who is most qualified should speak now and forever.

Sure, there maybe tricky grammar rules against my point. They fail to convince. This is, in the end, an idiomatic expression.

He who is best qualified should speak.

Okay now let's apply it to an immediate situation. Who should speak? That guy over there. Him.

But that changes the whole time and place of the statement to something that isn't what we're talking about. we are not talking about picking the guy out of the crowd to step up to the mic. we are making a timeless philosophical statement.

I am writing this on my phone and capitalization is a challenge so please forgive etc.

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  • Do you have any sources to support your opinions?
    – Hank
    Feb 8, 2017 at 16:39
  • "Let him speak" (or as you would say "Let he speak") is a "timeless philosophical statement"??? Oct 26, 2020 at 22:37
-7

The correct answer is: Let he who believes in this prophet speak now what he knows.

Why? Because one correctly says in normal speech: He believes , he being the subject of the sentence thus , he who believes is correct ; one does not say , or write him who believes . Also , (speak now what he knows , not , speak now what him knows) , and as for the verb speak without the "s" that is because it is in the subjunctive mode thus the "s" is not needed .

The question asked was : who is the subject of the sentence , he or him , well , it is blatantly obvious that he is the subject in the sentence . He is grammatically correct in this sentence, he is the subject.

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    This isn’t correct. To test, consider the sentence “Let ___ go to the park.” Would you fill in the blank with “we” or “us”?
    – Lawrence
    Oct 26, 2020 at 16:42
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    Or even, consider the sentence "Let ___ speak." Which word fits the blank, "him" or "he"? Then the situation is as in the OP with the very same words (except that some words that don't affect the answer have been removed).
    – Rosie F
    Oct 26, 2020 at 17:51
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    "he" is not the subject. The sentence is an imperative and the subject is implied as in, "You let him speak" or "John let him speak". Incidentally "speak" is not the subjunctive, it is in fact the bare infinitive, as in, "Let him to speak" where the "to" of the infinitive is omitted. If we use "allow" instead of "let" then we use the full infinitive, i.e. "Allow him to speak" Oct 26, 2020 at 22:41
  • He is the subject, and "speak" is in the subjunctive mode, it is not in the imperative; as it is not an order. It starts with, "let" more of a request; the request has a certain doubt, that the request might not be answered, hence the subjunctive mode.
    – Roger
    Oct 27, 2020 at 17:00

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