JS Tip 461: "Who" or "Whom"? That is the question . . . . 

From the Writing Workshops: A Back-to-Basics Series: Using “Who” and  “Whom” 

Let’s get back to basics.

Let’s talk about “who” and “whom.” (This, incidentally, was our first tip in April of 2009.)

Using “Who” and “Whom”

“Whom” is fading from the language, but we’ll talk about it anyway.

“Who” is always a subject. “Whom” is always an object. (Subjective case and objective case, but don’t worry about that. It won’t be on the test.)

An easy way to remember is to think of how “whom” sounds like “him.” (“Him” is always an object.) If you can substitute “him” for the who-or-whom in question, you can—and should—use “whom.” If not, you should use “who.”

Who did the work?

Can you substitute “him” here? “Him did the work?” Nope. “Who” is correct.

You gave the contract to whom? 

“You gave the contract to him?” Yup. That works. “Whom” is correct.

You may have to rearrange the sentence.

Whom did you see yesterday? 

The sentence rearranges to “Did you see him yesterday?” “Him” works, so “whom” works.

(But notice how stiff and awkward “whom” sounds. The question sounds like it was posed by an English butler. Use what sounds best. Use what your audience expects. “Whom” will fade away.)

If you have questions, let us know. We seriously love this stuff. It’s fun.

Next week, we’ll talk about the classic “its” and “it’s.” It’s going to be a good discussion. Or its going to be a good discussion. One of those two.

Mark Brooks