“Who” versus “Whom”

Not a lot of people are really interested in this anymore, but here it is!

There are two reasons that people have trouble with who and whom.

The first reason is that one does not hear these used correctly. Have you heard the word whom used this week? this month? We have simply lost the correct use of these words.

Secondly, when the who/whom choice has to be made, the word itself is usually not in the “right” place in the sentence to allow your ear to help you; that is, the who/whom are generally used at the beginning of the unit they are part of. It is a question word; so it begins the sentence. It is a pronoun that introduces a clause; so it is at the beginning of the clause.

Who/Whom are you referring to?
(You are referring to — .)

Who/Whom does he intend to call?
(He does intend to call — .)

John is the one who/whom everyone expects will win the election.
(…everyone expects — will win the election)

The English rule says that one uses who when it is nominative case and whom when it is objective. However, that doesn’t always translate into the correct answer as many people do not understand all of the differences between nominative and objective.

So this is what I recommend if you want to begin to even think about using these correctly:

1. Turn the sentence/clause around so that it is in standard word order.
2. Put in he/she or him/her. Which one fits? If he/she fits, it is who; if him/her fits, it is whom.

This will work for many of the uses, and it works because your ear tells you which is correct. There are a few sophisticated uses that might cause you some trouble.

This is a start. If you want some exercises to do, let me know. If you want more information, let me know.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Comments 4

  1. I’ve heard your explanation for these rules more than once, and every time is so helpful. I would love some exercises to practice. Thank you for starting up your blog again. You are my lifeline when it comes to grammar!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi, Candy.

      I have a workbook that goes with the text. It is 250 pages of practice and practice. It is available on my website. Keep sending questions of things you are not sure of.

      Have a good day.

      Margie

  2. Margie: I have over 10 years experience as a legal secretary. Over the past two years I have been providing transcription services as a freelancer. I am looking to get into the scoping field and know I need to brush up on my English grammar skills to be successful. Recently purchased the Blue Book of Grammar. Can I study using that book? How are the Morson Book and your book different? Can I use the Blue Book as a study guide or do you recommend me purchasing one of the other two?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi, Jennifer.

      Sorry for the delay. I have not been active on my blog for a couple of months.

      I, of course, recommend my book. However, I do have reasons other than that it is my book. My book has court reporting examples as opposed to “Dick and Jane” examples. The most valuable thing about my book is the explanations. I don’t believe that it is effective to just study rules in isolation. They all work in combination with each other. I believe you need the “big picture.” Just citing a rule is not helpful in learning how all rules go together. My book explains the rule, how it works, and how it fits in with the language in general.

      The other thing that makes my book valuable is that I discuss particular court reporting issues in a separate section so that those issues are easy to find.

      Hope this helps.

      Happy punctuating!

      Margie

      For reporting purposes, I am not sure the “Blue Book” is going to be effective.

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