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English grammar question


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Hello linguaholics!

I have a rather special question about English grammar for you, I hope somebody can help! Here is the question: Which personal pronoun do you have to use in the following sentence (I have marked the pronoun in question in bold letters)?

It is our duty to care for him who has suffered.

So basically, if you have an INDIRECT object that happens to be a pronoun followed by a relative clause, which pronoun do I have to use in the case of a single male person? He? Him? Or is the sentence construction impossible altogether?

I am looking forward to your answers!

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I'm no expert so I might be wrong but I think the structure is sound as well as the pronoun used. Personally, I think you could substitute the noun with anything and it could work so it's why I'm assuming that the structure is good.

For example, "it is our duty to care for Frank, who has suffered" doesn't sound too odd to me at all, so I suspect using him in this case is acceptable.

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Thanks @Baburra for answering, I know the question might be a little odd. The thing is, it DOES SOUND correct to me, too but a friend actually raised the issue, and now I am confused.

Let's say you have a sentence like:

It is he, who should vote.

It's pretty straight forward, as "he" is the subject and therefore it goes perfectly with the "who".

As however in the example I have "him" is an indirect object, does it still stay "who"? I mean, obviously the sentence structure as it is, is a bit archaic, so I was also wondering if it might have been correct at one point but now isn't any more ... HELP

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I don't really pay much attention to grammar and all. But in your example above, the correct form is, "It is our duty to care for he who has suffered."

That he could be anybody who has suffered. him can't go, if you want to use him. You can write your sentence like this, "It is our duty to care for him."

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Hi! I think that you should omit the "who" because it needs a comma, but that would still make it grammatically incorrect. I would rewrite it to "It is our duty to care for him because he has suffered" or "It is our duty to care for those who have suffered" if you are going plural.

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This is a classical relative clause which serves as the object complement - this sentence is in the pattern SVO. The structure of this relative clause ''who has suffered'' is defining - we can't omit that as then we wouldn't know who is the object of our ''taking care of''. A similar example: I am looking for a woman who lives with you. If you omit the ''who lives with you'' part, the hearer has no idea to whom the speaker is referring, or I know the secretary who wrote this. (There are a dozens of secretaries, but I know a particular one) A completely different case is this: I live in Paris, which has beautiful parks. (Everyone knows where Paris is - the second part is extra information provided which can also be omitted). It's simply additional information which is optional, not obligatory. There's a similar example in the Bible (1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin [...]) but here he is the subject, so you must use a different pronoun - that is, the nominative case. Him is accusative case used for object. Though, of course, you can always say this in two sentences: Take care of him. He has suffered.

Defining relative clauses aren't separated from the rest of the sentence with commas. Only non-defining.

I am still going to check the grammar book to be sure as this differs from the usual defining relative clause as object where you can omit the pronoun (in which case you usually have another subject)

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First of all, thanks for taking the time for dealing with this question and your suggestions. As a clarification though: The sentence is a shortened quote from an Inaugural Speech by Abraham Lincoln and used as motto on a local hospital here. So it's not really about me trying to make this sentence sound nice, but more about trying to understand the grammar behind it, or, analyze if the shortened form introduced a grammatical dilemma. The original sentence (if you google it) makes perfect sense, but the sentence as quoted above, left me with some questions. So the idea was to try to find out if the sentence as quoted is actually correct the way it is and WHY!

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  • 1 year later...

I'm actually pretty good with grammar.  I have studied many English grammar texts.  Who/whom does get me sometimes, but I understand the majority of the rules.  This sentence is correct.  "Who has suffered" is really just tacked onto the main sentence, which is "It is our duty to care for him".  That is why it seems kind of funny.  I can't really say if it should be who or whom, however.  That is a little confusing to me as well, although I think it's supposed to be who. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I would not say it like that, but rather

It  is our duty to care for the one, who has suffered. or

It is our duty to care for him, because he suffered. or

It is our duty to care for him, for he suffered. ('for' here replacing 'because').

Your sentence is a bit archaic, I believe it can be found in some of the older scriptures, for example, the Bible, if I am not mistaken. I am not sure it is grammatically incorrect, just semantically does not seem to be in the right way.

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You are correct that it's "him". It is the object of the preposition "for". If you take out "who has suffered" and look at the independent clause on its own, you'll see that it makes no sense to say "It is our duty to care for he." The clause "who has suffered" is just a way of modifying "him", which will be an object regardless of the content of that clause.

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