Improve your English: WHO or WHOM?
How to Use Who and Whom
The correct use ofwhoandwhomin questions and statements may seem like a lost battle, still fought only by punctilious English teachers. However, usingwhoandwhomcorrectly can come in handy in formal writing, and it will make you seem more educated.
Understand the difference betweenwhoandwhom.Bothwhoandwhomare relative pronouns.However,whois used as thesubjectof a sentence or clause, to denote who is doing something (likeheorshe).On the other hand,whomis used as a direct or indirect object of a verb or preposition.
- While a preposition (at,by,for,in,with, etc.) often comes beforewhom, this is not always the case, so the key question is to ask, “Who is doing what to whom?” What follows is a quick way to determine which pronoun to use in a particular question.
Usewhowhen referring to the subject of a sentence or clause.
- Who brought the paper inside?
- Who talked to you today?
- Who went to dinner?
- Who ate the cake?
- Our job is to determine who qualifies.
Usewhomwhen referring to the object of a verb or preposition.
- To whom it may concern:
- To whom did you talk today?
- Whom does Sarah love?
Ask yourself if the answer to the question would behe/sheorhim/her.If you can answer the question withhim/her, then usewhom. It’s easy to remember because they both end withm. If you can answer the question withhe/she, then usewho.
- Example: A suitable answer to the question, “To [whoorwhom] did the prize go?” is, “It went to him/her.” (It is improper to say “It went to he/she.”) The correct pronoun for the question iswhom.
- Example: A suitable answer to the question, “[WhoorWhom] went to the store?” is, “He/She went to the store.” (It is improper to say “Him/Her went to the store.”) The correct pronoun for the questionwho.
When trying to decide whetherwhoorwhomis correct, simplify the sentence.Where other words in a complex sentence might throw you off track, simplify the sentence to include just the basic subject, verb, and object. It helps to move the words around in your head to identify the word relationships. For example:
- “Marie Antoinette and her ladies-in-waiting only invited people to their party [whoorwhom] they considered to love parties as much as they did.” The simplified mental version becomes: “whomthey considered.”
- “Marie Antoinette prevented her mother from knowing [whoorwhom] she invited to the Petit Trianon.” The simplified mental version becomes: “[whoorwhom] she invited.” Then, you could rearrange it again to say: “she invitedwhom”, clarifying that she did something to (invited)whom.
Remember that the distinction betweenwhoandwhomis less important in informal spoken language than it is in formal written language.It’s possible that the distinction might someday erode altogether. For now, though, it is important to keep this clear in written language.
QuestionIs it right to say, "To whom does this car belong?"wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThanks!
QuestionWhich is correct: 'for my sister, whom I love very much,' or, 'for my sister, who I love very much'?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIn this case, whom is correct, because the object of your love is your sister Think about it this way -- if a person is having the verb done to (with, about, for, etc.) them, you want to use whom.Thanks!
QuestionIs it 'The girl whom you spoke to in the office is my friend' or 'The girl who you spoke to in the office is my friend'?Ramon HerberCommunity AnswerThe girl is the object acted upon (talked to) in this sentence. You spoke to her rather than you talked to she. Therefore, whom is correct. However, if she talked to you it would be the other way around, because then "she" talked to you. She would now be the subject. So the girl who spoke to you in the office is my friend.Thanks!
QuestionIs "whom are you going to invite" correct?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, because in this sentence you are the subject, and the invited party will be the object of your action (being invited).Thanks!
Question"There was controversy amongst the teachers, as to [who/whom] the new head teacher would be"?Top AnswererAlthough it seems like it should be "whom" (as the object of the preposition "to"), it's actually "who" (as a predicate nominative in the independent clause "who the...teacher would be." "Teacher" is the subject of the clause, "would be" is the verb, and "who" is the predicate nominative).Thanks!
QuestionIs this statement correct: "To whom much is given, much is expected"?wikiHow ContributorCommunity Answer"Whom" is correct. "We have given much to him...", "Whom have given much to...", "..to whom we have given much" are all correct phrases.Thanks!
QuestionIf I'm going to say "I had a friend who used to do that," is that right?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, that's correct. You would not use "whom" in that instance.Thanks!
QuestionShould I use who or whom in the following sentence: "I can well afford to disregard him who is capable of making such statements."Betson2Community AnswerIt should be 'I can well afford to disregard ONE/HE who is capable of ...." It is "who" because it refers to an "action doer" or subject in grammatical terms. You can't use him for the same reason, that we need a subject. So you can say "he is capable of ...." but we can't say "him is capable of...."Thanks!
QuestionIn the above question regarding "not all who are" vs. "not all whom are": The second example is not technically correct. There is a linking verb (are); therefore, you must use the nominative pronoun. Also, the examples that are cited as indirect objects are actually objects of prepositions.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou're right. Only "not all who are" is correct. Unfortunately, someone submitted the wrong answer and it got approved.Thanks!
QuestionWhen is it proper to use "To whom am I speaking?"wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWhen you make or receive a phone call and don't know who the person you're speaking to is. Honestly, though, this is a very formal expression that is not used much. If you want to use it, save it for relatively formal phone calls (e.g., business matters). Generally, "May I ask who's speaking?" or even just "Who's speaking?" works best.Thanks!
Short Video: How to Use Who and Whom
whom] did the boy give the apple?" The answer could be "The boy gave the apple tohim," so the correct word would bewhom.If you’re still a little confused, read on for more tips on usingwhoandwhomcorrectly, like simplifying sentences so it's easier to choose the right word.
- Ask yourself “who did what to whom?”
- Learningwhoandwhomcan help with grammar and understanding different languages. It is also good to know this if you want to speak fluent English and write correct sentences.
- It is possible to write around problems involvingwhoandwhom, but the result is almost always clumsy. If you write “To which person did the prize go?” because you can’t remember thatwhomis the correct pronoun for such a question, you will have avoided a grammatical error at the expense of elegance.
- Here’s a useful mnemonic for remembering about objects and subjects: If you say “I love you”, thenyouis the object of your affection and the object of the sentence.Iis the subject. “[WhomorWho] do I love?” is “Whom do I love?” because the answer,you, is an object.
- Learning another language can help greatly. In most languages, usingwhoin the place ofwhomcan cause great confusion. A great example of this is German or Spanish.
- The CCAE (Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education) suggests always usingwhoto start a sentence.
- Whenwhoorwhomappears in a clause, the choice depends on whether the pronoun is serving as the subject or an object in the clause, regardless of whether the clause itself is functioning as the subject or an object in the full sentence.
- There is much confusion and misuse on this topic. Just as correctly usingwhommay make others think that you are intelligent, misusing it may make you seem pompous. Never usewhomas a subject pronoun. This is as incorrect as usingwhowherewhomis required. Many people will mistakenly believe that you are trying to be formal.
- “Whom are you?” is wrong. It is meant to be “Who are you?”
- “John is the man whom I expect will be awarded the prize” is wrong. It should be “John is the man who I expect will be awarded the prize.”
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Video: Grammar rules to use 'Who' & 'Whom' in a sentence - English Grammar Lesson
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