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  1. I saw him standing in the doorway.
  2. I saw him who stood in the doorway.

Is there any difference between the two in meaning?

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The second sentence doesn't sound very idiomatic—it's not something that somebody would normally say. More likely would be:

I saw somebody standing in the doorway.


But, that aside, there is a difference in focus between the two.

I saw him standing in the doorway.
→ I saw Jim standing in the doorway.

Here, the main focus of the sentence is on him. It's describing a particular person—and then also mentioning that they are standing.

In fact, it would be easy to turn it into two sentences:

I saw him. He was standing in the doorway.


I saw him who stood in the doorway.
→ I saw Him Who Stood in The Doorway.

Here, all six words in bold act as a unit. The focus is no longer just him, but him who stood in the doorway. The fact that it was somebody standing in the doorway is more essential to the meaning of the sentence than the fact that it was him. (The individual loses importance as an individual.) Moreover, standing in the doorway cannot be treated as a secondary property of the person.

In short, this sentence cannot be turned into two sentences without changing its focus.

  • "I saw him who stood in the doorway." sounds like something from a horror novel, or a literary work using an intentionally archaic form. I agree with this answer's discussion of the meaning. – David Siegel Apr 12 at 2:22
  • @DavidSiegel In fact, the original sentence is [“Do you see the large tree,” said the witch, pointing to a tree which stood beside them. <source: The tinder-box by Hans Christian Andersen in 1835>] Then is it an archaic form? – Fringetos Apr 12 at 3:25
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    @Fringetos No, the sentence with the tree is idiomatic. It's only archaic to construct it with a pronoun. "I saw the man who stood in the doorway" works fine, while "pointing to that which stood beside them" sounds archaic too. – the-baby-is-you Apr 12 at 3:32
  • @Fringetos The form "him who stood" is certainly old-fashioned or affected. I'm not sure it is truly archaic. The form "a tree which stood" is much more common. The "Him who" emphasizes the property over the person, almost makes it a title. As the answer said. – David Siegel Apr 12 at 3:32

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