Word! Who vs. Whom

Pierre Metivier

Ok it’s time to take another look at the who versus whom conundrum. Clearly, we had to turn to the expert for this: Grammar Girl.

Here are the basics: “whom” is the objective case of the pronoun “who,” used when “who” is an object in the sentence. Huh? Ok, here’s an example. In the sentence Who loves you, baby? “Who” is the subject of “loves.” However, in the sentence “Whom do you love?” the word “whom” is used because “whom” is the object of “love.”

Now it gets trickier. Whoever versus Whomever.

We love Grammar Girl’s trick for this — she says when you come across this choice the best thing to do is to avoid the entire sentence all together. Rework the sentence so that you don’t have to decide between whoever versus whomever, and just choose a different word. OK, let’s pretend this isn’t a choice. Which word do you use?

In sentences such as: “whoever did this” you use whoever because it’s the subject of “did.” In the case of “whomever I hire” you use whomever because it’s the object of “hire.”

Why so much confusion around “whom?” Grammar Girl thinks it’s because the word is becoming extinct. I mean really—when is the last time you heard your boss say, “Whomever I hire.” or your friend ask, “Whom do you think will come to the party?”

Still confused? Here’s a handy rewriting trick to get you out of who/whom hot water: rephrase the sentence. For example, instead of “I want to speak to whoever did this,” you could write “I want to speak to the person who did this.” In place of, “Whomever I choose will begin immediately,” you could write “The person I choose will begin immediately.”

Many thanks for the tips from Grammar Girl and Neal Whitman, who has a PhD in linguistics and blogs at Literal Minded.

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