General Question

babygalll's avatar

Whom or who?

Asked by babygalll (2721 points ) June 23rd, 2008

I notice when people say “who” others correct them and say “whom” and when I hear “whom” they correct them and “who”. What is the difference? What is the correct way to use who and whom?

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17 Answers

ben's avatar

Yeah, there is a difference.

Simply put, use “who” for the subject of a sentence, and use “whom” for the direct or indirect object—(the objects that the verb acts on).

For example: “Who gives the money to Jon?” and “Jon gives the money to whom?” or “To whom does John give the money?” (#2 and #3 are the same with the order changed).

If you’re using the the “to be” verb, (is, are, am), you’ll probably be using “who”.

This is the reason to learn some Latin… also, if you spend a few minutes diagramming sentences, that may help clarify things.

marinelife's avatar

Here is a usage trick from Ultimate Style The Rules of Writing:

“If you can’t get who and whom straight, try this trick: rephrase the sentence to get rid of who or whom. If you find you’ve replaced who/whom with he, she, or they, who is correct. If you find you’ve replaced who/whom with him, her, or them, then whom is correct.

For example, suppose you have the question Who/whom is the most famous A-list star eating lunch at Elaine’s? Rephrase it: She is the most famous A-list star eating lunch at Elaine’s. Since you’ve used she, you know who is correct in the original question: Who is the most famous A-list star at Elaine’s?

Another example: Vaughn wondered who/whom he would kiss next. Rephrase: Vaughn would kiss her next. Since the rephrased sentence uses her, you know whom is correct: Vaughn wondered whom he would kiss next.”

breedmitch's avatar

This is my main grammar foible. Luckily, some benevolent Fluther-god corrected my mistake here. Thanks for that!

That’s a good trick, Marina. I’ll have to remember that.

augustlan's avatar

I just learned an easy way to remember this rule: If you replace who/whom with him, realize that “him” ends in “m” and so does “whom”, and if you replace who/whom with he, realize that “he” has no “m”, and neither does “who”.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Well said, augustlan. Simple, yet direct. :)

morphail's avatar

Unless you’re writing something formal, I don’t think you need to worry about it, except for this:
We use “whom” after a preposition, as in
He is the man to whom I talked.

We don’t say
*He is the man to who I talked.

Other than that, in normal speech, it’s “who” everywhere else, for instance
He is the man who I talked to.
Who does John give the money to?

please_not_to_ask2's avatar

Whom is said to be archaic anyway, though the first response is the correct one. “Who” is a subject like “I” and “whom” is an object like “me”.

jessicamarie's avatar

There is a difference and i feel that if you are writing something VERY important then you should use “whom”...if its just a note to a friend or something then it doesnt matter…to me at least.

Anemone's avatar

Lile other said, “whom” is an object, which “who” is a subject. The way I remember it is, if it has a preposition before it, you should probably say “whom”. For instance, “For whom the bell tolls, or “To whom did you give the book?” On the other hand, you could say, “Who will be speaking?” or “When you called, who answered?”

That said, as far as I can tell, in most cases it really doesn’t matter. Using “whom” may be correct, but it’s also archaic and pedantic in some situations. Language changes, and correctness all depends on whom you ask. Or who.

Response moderated (Spam)
zensky's avatar

The easy way to remember is if you can replace “whom” with “him” – you’re good.

breedmitch's avatar

Really? What if the example is “To who/whom should I administer this PAP smear?”
To him?
I don’t think him would say you’re good…

zensky's avatar

Should I administer it to her or to she?

Like I said, when whom can be replaced by him (or her).

I stand by my comment, and apologies to @augustlan who had already written the same.

I don’t think him would say you’re good @breedmitch – is that what you came back for?

breedmitch's avatar

I was making a joke. Forgive me. I’d forgotten you’re humorless.

zensky's avatar

That was so funny, you jokester you. Jerk.

breedmitch's avatar

I forgot you’re rude, as well.

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