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This question already has an answer here:

I would like to know which form of this question is “more correct” than the other:

  1. What would you have preferred (that) he do?
  2. What would you have preferred him to do?

marked as duplicate by tchrist Feb 22 '18 at 16:53

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  • Pity there isn't a "useful" flag for the “marked as duplicate” like there is for comments(!) – Will Crawford Feb 23 '18 at 10:24
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The first, although we could argue all day about what does and doesn't fit.

The second looks odd because him is for objects, and the he you're talking about isn't the object here, your preferred action (by him) is the object of preferred. So him to do should be that he do.

  • There’s nothing odd about him in this context. Compare “What would you have liked him to do?”, which is exactly parallel, apart from the fact that the infinitive with its oblique subject sounds perfectly natural with like, but jarring with prefer. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 22 '18 at 21:34
  • It jars a lot. Case where him works: I require him to do [X] (which could also be I require that he do [X]), versus I mandate that he do [X] (which cannot work with him as as we’re mandating the action, not the person). Saying I prefer him to do [X] is the answer to Which of those people would you prefer [to] do [X]? – Will Crawford Feb 23 '18 at 10:26
  • I agree that it jars and doesn’t work. It’s only the reasoning in your last paragraph that I disagree with: the reason that it doesn’t work isn’t that him is not the object, because it works fine in other parallel constructions where him is also not the object. Syntactically, him is the subject of the infinitive to do (the trace postcedent of what is its object), and him to do [what] is the object of preferred; but this in itself does not explain why it works with some verbs and not with others. I’m afraid the answer is just that it’s a property of the individual verb. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 23 '18 at 10:52
  • It is related to which verb is in use, but I suggest it's a fundamental part of the meaning of the verb, whether it applies directly to the person involved. So I assert that prefer works like mandate (but softer!), not like require, in relating to the doing not the doer. You can leave the that out of that he do, leaving I prefer he do .... I have to concede a lot of people do say or write him in places like this. With require, you are requiring the action of the person... I've reached my depth here! Would you say the him is genetive or ablative? – Will Crawford Feb 23 '18 at 11:13

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