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I wrote

It could be a war over the reign between two important men who each knew himself the true heir of the reign.

One modified it to

It could be a war over the reign between two important men, each who knew himself to be the true heir of the reign

What is the related grammar here?

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  • You used a pronoun after the relative pronoun who which is supposed to replace it. It's like saying, "I saw a man who he's tall.".
    – Yuri
    Oct 7, 2016 at 20:52
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    As a side note, other than for particles, prepositions, and some pronouns, it's good style to avoid using the same word twice in a sentence unless you really want to draw attention to that word. Here you used "reign" twice, so try using a synonym instead. As it turns out, "heir to the reign" is not idiomatic, and you should instead say "heir to the throne".
    – Andrew
    Oct 7, 2016 at 22:30
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    Actually "a war over the reign between two important men" is grammatical but not entirely correct since "reign" means "rule". You don't "war over the reign", but you can "war to see who will rule"
    – Andrew
    Oct 7, 2016 at 22:32

1 Answer 1

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Your two sentences seem to be attempts to phrase the thought by using the subjective case who.

You present an example in which the objective case of the pronoun who is the most useful and clearest choice. When who is the object of a preposition, its objective case whom is grammatically correct. Although it is less idiomatic in spoken English now than it was 50 years ago, it is still preferred in most writing.

In your example, with each as a distributive of two important men in the first clause, and with whom as the object of the preposition of in each of, the sentence is clear as a bell:

It could be a war over the reign between two important men, each of whom knew himself to be the true heir of the reign.


This is not germane to your question, but reign might be replaced by throne as more idiomatic, and it need be used only once:

It could be a war over the throne between two important men, each of whom knew himself to be the true heir.

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  • +1. for over the throne. I don't disagree with each of whom but to my ear each, who knew himself to be... is also viable, though in a somewhat "heightened" old-fashioned register. Late 18th early 19th century.
    – TimR
    Oct 8, 2016 at 12:28
  • @TRomano I can't grok the comma after each. Can you explicate, or is that a typo? I was also thinking of two important men, each believing himself the true heir. Oct 8, 2016 at 17:10
  • That's just an oratorical comma. It doesn't contribute to the sense. See p. 208, four lines up from the bottom, for an example of a similar use of each: books.google.com/…
    – TimR
    Oct 8, 2016 at 18:47
  • @TRomano hmm. In that text, we have young men running in the first clause and striving in the second. The OP has only one action undertaken by the "each": knowing, with the "dummy it" the subject of the first clause. So in the OP's example, to mirror that usage, we would have to make the important men the subject of an action in the first clause: It could be a war over the throne fought between two important men, knowing each himself to be the true heir. Register-wise, that is positively stratospheric. Oct 8, 2016 at 21:02
  • In the OP, the situation is affected by the reflexive. There were two suitors, who strove each to win the hand of the fair maiden. When she entered a nunnery, those two suitors, who each had known himself to be the better man, joined the foreign legion. Not contemporary AmE or BrE, to be sure, but English of two centuries ago.
    – TimR
    Oct 9, 2016 at 10:15

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