What is the question (do you think) inside the main question? Is there any name given to this sentence (do you think)? Is it correct to say "Whom do you think is he?"? If not, then, why?

closed as off-topic by Barmar, lbf, Hot Licks, MetaEd Jul 10 '18 at 15:50

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  • This question is very unclear. What do you mean by "main sentence"? Are you talking about the question in the title? It's not worded normally, but I'm not completely sure it's ungrammatical. – Barmar Jul 3 '18 at 19:09
  • We'd normally ask "Who do you think he is?". – Barmar Jul 3 '18 at 19:10
  • Here 'who is he' is the main question, 'do you think' is inserted in the middle. Is this a parenthetical sentence? – Haque Jul 3 '18 at 19:19
  • You need to put all that clarification in the question. – Barmar Jul 3 '18 at 19:33
  • Yes, the question is really unclear. – user305707 Jul 3 '18 at 20:36

The correct form is "Who do you think he is?"

"Who is he" is not the main question. Grammatically, the main question is "Do you think ([that] he is who)?" ('who' is the unknown item in both questions). 'Do you think' has a question forming fronted auxiliary (from 'You do think'). The clause that is thought about ("he is who?") is secondary -- it does not change to the question format ("who is he"). The unknown item 'who[m]' gets fronted before everything. 'Whom' would be the accusative form, but 'who' is proper because it is a subject complement, and also acceptable because it has been fronted.

  • "Who" is proper because it is a subjective pronoun. "Who do you think he is?" "I think he's he (subject pronoun)." "Whom" would be proper in an objective sense. "Who is he talking to?" "He is talking to him (object pronoun)." A subject complement is merely an adjective, noun, or pronoun following a copula. Here is an example of a subject complement: "It (subject) is (copula or linking verb) he (pronoun as subject complement) who went on the trip." – user305707 Jul 3 '18 at 20:21
  • It is true, however, that, technically speaking, subject pronouns have to follow to-be verbs. Most people do not do this, and so this rule isn't widely practiced in informal English. "It is just me at the door" is informal and technically incorrect whereas "It is just I at the door" is more formal and technically correct. – user305707 Jul 3 '18 at 20:27
  • @Nathan M - Being at the front does not make it the subject. Before it was fronted, it was a pronoun following a copula, making it a subject complement. – AmI Jul 3 '18 at 20:28
  • Perhaps I misunderstood your answer. Could you clarify? – user305707 Jul 3 '18 at 20:30
  • I didn’t understand the question, but I found this answer (and comments) to be very informative. – mick Jul 3 '18 at 20:32

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