Having a hard time deciding whether to use “he” or “him”? Knowing which pronoun to use isn’t as hard as you think once you break down the grammar rules. After you learn the difference, you'll never question how "he" or "him" should be used in a sentence again.
He vs. Him Grammar Rules Simplified
Difference Between “He” and “Him”
Is it “he went” or “him went”? There is only one clear winner. To learn who that winner is, you need to first understand pronouns. Pronouns are used to replace nouns to give sentences a little variety and to avoid unnecessary repetition. They are like adding a new ingredient to your sundae: they spice it up. It would be boring if Tim always did everything all the time. Rather than Tim, you could say “he” did something.
To make it even more complicated, pronouns come in different forms. For today, you’ll just focus on the male third-person pronouns “he” and “him.”
When to Choose “He”
In the world of grammar, “he” is a singular third-person male pronoun. “He” is used to replace the male subject of the sentence: it functions as a subject pronoun. This might sound confusing, but it is actually quite simple. Consider these example sentences:
- Tommy is going to school.
He is going to school.
- The man is going to take his car to work.
He is going to take his car to work.
- Duke needs to go outside.
He needs to go outside.
- Billy didn’t say that.
He didn’t say that.
- What was Darrell thinking?
What was he thinking?
- Does Arham want some tea?
Does he want some tea?
As you can see, “he” can replace the masculine subject of the sentence. Rather than saying Tommy or Duke, you can just say "he." This avoids repetition and gives variety to your sentences. This also works if you have named the subject of the sentence once and want to avoid repetition.
- Tommy doesn’t lie, so he must be right.
- I listened to William because he is always truthful.
- Adam keeps practicing so he can join the band.
- Darnyle is going, so he can drive us.
The pronoun “he” takes the place of the second subject to avoid repetitive sentences like, “Tommy doesn’t lie, so Tommy must be right.”
Use of “He” for Unknown
There are times when you don’t know if a dog, cat, gerbil, or baby is male or female. In these instances, a person might use “he” as a generic term. For example, if the police don’t know the gender of a criminal and they can’t avoid using a singular pronoun, they might say:
You don’t need to worry; he will be caught.
While the police don’t know if the person is a male, they’re using “he” as a generic term. However, given the changing times of grammar and gender inclusiveness, it is always best to try to rewrite a sentence to avoid using the generic “he” if possible.
Using "they" as a gender neutral singular pronoun is becoming more common as well. In the case of non-human subjects, "it" can also be appropriate. For example, "I like that cat, because it is friendly."
Using “Him” in Sentences
Where there is a “he,” there is a “him.” Much like “he,” “him” is also a third-person masculine pronoun. However, “him” is an object pronoun for the subject pronoun “he.” Sound confusing? Don't worry, it will get clearer.
An object pronoun is not the subject of the sentence, but instead it is in some way affected by the subject either directly or indirectly. The object receives the action of the verb. It is also used after a preposition. See how the object pronoun "him" works in this sentence:
Cameron saw him.
In this sentence, “Cameron” is the subject, “saw” is the verb and “him” is the singular object pronoun. Look at a few more examples.
- I wanted to meet him.
- She wanted to tell him.
- Did you see him in the hallway?
- Molly heard him.
- I babysit him all the time.
- He met him at the cafe.
- Are you sure it was him?
“Him” can also be used after a preposition in a sentence. For example:
- I came in after him.
- Did you look for him under the table?
- I can do that for him.
- I don’t want to do that for him.
- You can’t put that near him.
- They came to him at the meeting.
- We can’t go without him; he’s driving us back.
- We choose Molly instead of him.
That wasn’t as hard as you thought. Now, it is time to add a little more difficulty by exploring how “he” and “him” are used with and.
Choosing “He” or “Him” With "And"
One of the most confusing areas of pronoun usage is with “and.” Even advanced English users can still have an issue when it comes to who goes first with “and.” A fun memory trick is to let your friends go first. Therefore, “him” and “he” will come before “me” or “I.”
- He and I are going to the movies. (subject form)
- She wanted to go with him and me to the store. (object form)
- John invited him and me to the store. (object form)
- He and I will meet at the gym. (subject form)
If you remember to let your friends go first, you’ve got this in the bag. And, if you're confused about whether to use "him" or "he" in these sentences, remember that "he and I" can be replaced by "we," whereas "him and me" can be replaced by "us." So, the above four sentences could be rewritten as:
- We are going to the movies.
- She wanted to go with us to the store.
- John invited us to the store.
- We will meet at the gym.
When to Use “He” or “Him”
Now that you’ve read all the rules, you definitely know that “he went” is correct and not "him went." To round out your education, you might want to explore “she” vs. “her” examples. It’s important to learn all sides when it comes to pronouns.