JS Tip 231:From the Writing Workshops: The Back-to-School Issue—Using “Who” and “Whom”

Teach your children to write well. They’ll need to know this in school, and it’s been a while since we’ve talked about this. (This, incidentally, was our first tip in April, 2009.)  

Using “Who” and “Whom”

“Whom” is fading fast 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.)

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 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?” Yeah, 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 asked by an English butler. Use what sounds best. Use what the teacher requires. “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 indefinite articles. (What?) “A” and “an.”