'If I were HIM, I would never tell my wife.'
Funny, this.
In this conditional clause, I suppose, 'him' is the nominal part of the predicate, isn't it? Then why is it not a nominative?

Or is it bad English and should we say 'If I were he ...', anyway?

A contra-indication thereof would be that in my own language, Dutch, a nominative is not possible. The object form of the personal pronoun is absolutely required. So it can't be a nominative. But still a nominal predicate?
Anything to do with the irrealis?
Any grammar freaks who know?
Joppe
1 2 3 4 5 6
'If I were HIM, I would never tell my wife.' Funny, this. In this conditional clause, I suppose, 'him' is the nominal part of the predicate, isn't it? Then why is it not a nominative?

"Him" is in the place of a predicate nominative. It's form is accusative (objective). That's what you mean, right.
Or is it bad English and should we say 'If I were he ...', anyway?

Either form is acceptable nowadays. "If I were he" is more formal, for what little difference that makes.
A contra-indication thereof would be that in my own language, Dutch, a nominative is not possible. The object form of the personal pronoun is absolutely required. So it can't be a nominative. But still a nominal predicate? Anything to do with the irrealis?

Not where the form of the pronoun is concerned. On the other hand, I think many British speakers would say, and write, "If I was he (or him)." But that's for another time.
Any grammar freaks who know?

It's debatable whether I'm a freak, but grammar really has nothing well, very little to do with it. Simply put, English idiom is gradually altering the uses of the various case forms of the pronouns. You routinely see and hear things like "Between you and I" and "He is the person whom I believe is guilty." "It's me" (as a complete sentence) is far more common than "It's I" in spoken Engish, and in formal written English most people would rather rewrite than put "It's I" on paper.
So, okay, traditional English grammar calls for "If I were he," but contemporary English idiom allows either that or "If I were him." Check back in about ten years and see what we're doing then.

Bob Lieblich
Idiom savant
So, okay, traditional English grammar calls for "If I were he," but contemporary English idiom allows either that or "If I were him." Check back in about ten years and see what we're doing then.

I find the subjunctive incongruous for the informal register implied by the use of "him" as a complement; I'd expect to hear either "If I were he ..." or "If I was him ...". Expressions like "In his place ..." are available if none of the above sit comfortably.

It's been mentioned here before that a Pondian difference has developed regarding the subjunctive, which has been mostly abandoned on the UK side. Some aspects of Canadian usage are 'mid-Pondian'; if my ear is typical, this may be an example of a form persisting only in 'educated' and literary registers.

Odysseus
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in formal written English most people would rather rewrite than put "It's I" on paper.

If I feel I must contract "It is I", I'll contract it "'Tis I". I find it easier to say, and if I'm going to sound a little stilted I may as well sound very stilted. Emotion: smile

Michael DeBusk, Co-Conspirator to Make the World a Better Place I am a pineapple * http://home.earthlink.net/~debu4335 /

So, okay, traditional English grammar calls for "If I were ... in about ten years and see what we're doing then.

I find the subjunctive incongruous for the informal register implied by the use of "him" as a complement; I'd expect ... if my ear is typical, this may be an example of a form persisting only in 'educated' and literary registers.

I would never say "I am he," so I would certainly not say "If I were he." But I would always use the subjunctive in such a case. As a result, the only way I would say it is as presented: "If I were him."

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
'If I were HIM, I would never tell my wife.' Funny, this. In this conditional clause, I suppose, 'him' is ... is absolutely required. So it can't be a nominative. But still a nominal predicate? Anything to do with the irrealis?

Nothing to do with the irrealis, no.
Any grammar freaks who know? Joppe

I have seen only one discussion in a major grammar about why the accusative might be used in such a case. That was in A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk et al., in section
6.5, pages 337 and 338, where the authors say that English speakers seesentences as having a "subject territory" and an "object territory." The "he" in "If I were he" and the "him" in "If I were him" fall within the object territory, with the result that "If I were him" sounds better.
This explanation can certainly be criticized (and has been in either alt.english.usage or alt.usage.english, or both) but I present it here as the only explanation I have seen by someone writing grammar from a descriptive linguistics point of view.

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
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I find the subjunctive incongruous for the informal register ... of a form persisting only in 'educated' and literary registers.

I would never say "I am he," so I would certainly not say "If I were he." But I would always use the subjunctive in such a case. As a result, the only way I would say it is as presented: "If I were him."

I agree, from a BritPOV.
Consider "What would you do if you were me?". Would anyone find "I" acceptable in place of "me"? If so would it be classified as grammatically correct, hypercorrection, idiomatic, or something else?

If ever I am in doubt I (temporarily) replace "were" by "were to be", and decide which form of the personal pronoun is appropriate.
Peter Duncanson
UK (posting from a.e.u)
Consider "What would you do if you were me?". Would anyone find "I" acceptable in place of "me"? If so would it be classified as grammatically correct, hypercorrection, idiomatic, or something else?

The form with "I" is, I believe, grammatically correct, but so unidiomatic that it's almost a hypercorrection. (I reserve "hypercorrection" for something that turns out to be grammatically incorrect. "If I were he" is not incorrect, so it's not, by my definition, a hypercorrection. But it sure feels like one.)
If ever I am in doubt I (temporarily) replace "were" by "were to be", and decide which form of the personal pronoun is appropriate.

Not a bad rule of thumb, although most of the time it probably brings you out just about where you'd have been without it.

Bob Lieblich
Idiom über grammar
'If I were HIM, I would never tell my wife.'

Reading these posts, i find it interesting that all the combinations of "him" and/or "he" with "were" and/or "was" are either preferred or accepted by one or another, or in certain contexts. Usage has become so diverse that it is about hopeless to find a standard, while we can observe the habits of some speech groups.
Growing up, our home dialect was pretty close to "the King's English", so the conditional "were" was automatic and the sense behind it intuitive. For me, the choice of words holds a distiction in meaning. Living in a world where few people share my habit or my sense of its special meaning, i find it sad that this usage is being lost. I feel this somewhat about the use of pronouns and various other usages consistent with my old dialect, although not as much where meaning is not an issue.
I still speak that way most of the time, but in recent years i have sometimes found myself going with the flow among people i know would not receive any message other than a feeling that i am very formal, perhaps even snobbish, which would be communicating falsely to their understanding. Still, the change would be subtle, as i would not go so far as to say: "If i was him, i would never tell my wife". It just wouldn't be me. None of it, not even with "were" and/or "he".

ER Lyon

"That's all I have to say about that." - Forrest Gump
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