I'm reading "Introduction to English linguistics" and in the chapter 4, there is a paragraph that I don't understand :

The other crucial cluster of properties of heads concern their structural relation to the other constituents. Thus, in verb phrases and prepostional phrases the head assigns case to the constituent to its right, which is the reason why we find "him" instead of "he", and "her" instead of "she" in

I saw him/ *he (wrong) yesterday
I met her /*she yesterday
This was a surprise for him / *he
This was a surprise for her / *she

Does anyone can explain to me ?

  • 2
    Your question title "How to recognise header" doesn't seem to have anything to do with the question in the body... please edit to clarify.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 4, 2022 at 0:42

1 Answer 1


The transitive verb "saw" is a head, and according to the book it assigns accusative case to the pronoun to the right in the sentence; the accusative form of this phrase is "him" (and then "her").

The preposition "for" is a head that in this context is said to be assigning accusative case to the pronoun(s) in the same way.

This is a relationship established and possible by the position of the head relative to the constituent receiving the case feature.

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