# When whom or who?

1. Mar 6, 2005

### Mk

What is the right time to use whom and who?

2. Mar 6, 2005

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Whom is the used in the objective case.

Who kicked whom? The "whom" receives the action.

3. Mar 6, 2005

### cepheid

Staff Emeritus
It's simple if you think of it this way: there are only two possible situations.

[1] The first is the situation in which the persion being referred to is the subject of the sentence. That is a grammatical term. The subject is the noun that performs the action being described.

e.g. Who stole my book?

In this sentence the person being referred to by "who" is the subject of the sentence. He/she is performing the action (which is theft, in this case).

[2] The second is the situation in which the person being referred to is the direct object of the sentence. I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that the direct object is a grammatical term referring to the noun at the receiving end of the action (ie the action is performed on it). The word "book" was the direct object in my first example.

e.g. To whom does this book belong? (or if you are less picky, you could say...Whom does this book belong to?)

Can you see that the unknown person here is the object, not the subject? Because we have:

This book (the subject) belongs to (the action) whom (the object).

An easier way to remember it is to change the question into a statement by plugging in another pronoun:

e.g. Would you ever say, "Him stole my book?" No! You would say:

He stole my book! <---The word "He" is correct because the thief is the subject of the sentence.

On the other hand, would you ever say, "This book belongs to he?" No! You would say:

This book belongs to him. <---The word "him" is correct here because the book owner is the object of the sentence.

So that's a good rule of thumb...turn the question or statement involving who or whom into a statement involving he/she or him/her. Whenever "he" is the correct word to use, then "who" is correct. Whenever "him" is correct, then the word "whom" would be correct.

One final point. If you are ever unsure, just use the word "who". The word "whom" is being used less and less frequently and is very formal. Nobody (at least here in Canada) would notice if you used "who" in place of "whom". But never use "whom" in a place where "who" is correct! That would be immediately noticed, and you would look like someone who was trying to sound more intelligent than he really was. :rofl: So if you're not sure..."who" is safest.

4. Mar 6, 2005

### motai

Him/Her - Whom
He/She - Who

Short but it works for me.

5. Mar 6, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Aaacckkk! Don't say "Whom does this book belong to?" If you know grammar well enough to use whom, then don't muck it up by ending the sentence with a preposition. In colloquial English (i.e., breaking the grammar rules as is done in common usage), someone would say, "Who does this book belong to?" This is absolutely incorrect from a grammatical standpoint, but is the way people normally speak. The correct form of the question, as pointed out by Cepheid, is, "To whom does this book belong?" Note that this usage of "whom" is not only in the case of being the direct object of the sentence, but also any time it is the object of the preposition: of whom, to whom, by whom, for whom; who is always the subject.

6. Mar 6, 2005

### cepheid

Staff Emeritus
Hehe...good points! There's no point making any (colloquial) mistakes if you're going to bother with saying 'whom'. Thanks for adding that about the object of the preposition. I've forgotten a lot of grammar, so that didn't occur to me right away. And yeah...I could have said all that a bit more succinctly.

7. Mar 6, 2005

### brewnog

Moonbear, you amaze me. You know how to correctly use a semicolon, you know your who/whom potatoes, but you call Lego "legos". At least get some consistency going!

You might like the Plain English Campaign: http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/

8. Jan 19, 2008

### Dr Nick

OK, thanks for the explanation everyone. However, there is still one thing I am unsure about in the use of who and whom.

If I were to say "Sorry to all # have sent me an email....", should I use whom; or who?

I am also unsure about my semicolon use, but thats another topic completely.

9. Jan 19, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

It would be "Sorry to all who"

This thread is 2 years old.

10. Jan 19, 2008

### Dr Nick

Thanks Evo, realized age of thread just after posting ;)

11. Jan 19, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

No problem, and thanks for not mentioning that I didn't answer the semi-colon question. All I remember is that it connects two sentence parts together; or something.

I know some grammar guru will step in here and rip me apart.

12. Jan 20, 2008

### EnumaElish

It's never a good time to use people; any people.

13. Jan 20, 2008

### mbrmbrg

Rip. Evo. Apart. NOW!
Oh, ouch. Oh, ouch.
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, by Lynn Truss.

"A semicolon joins two independent clauses." blah blah. Plainspeak: each phrase on either side of the semicolon could be its own sentence (exactly as it is written!), if it weren't so simple and boring.

A semicolon should not immediately precede any of the FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

14. Jan 20, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

OUCH!

Yes! That's it!

15. Jan 20, 2008

### mbrmbrg

Oh, and Evo. The ripping you apart wasn't really supposed to hurt; it was supposed to stop you from further harm.
The ouches were from seeing... poor semicolon... abused like that. :shudder:
Sorry. It's a grammar nerd thing. :wince: