Who vs. whom


Does anyone have any quick and easy ways to review the use of who and whom with high school students?

asked Jan 04 '13 at 14:05 Jackie Pickett New member

5 answers


Question words are used in place of some Information given in the sentence. Who is used in place of subject.Whom is used in place of object (direct object).

link comment answered Jan 04 '13 at 16:06 Rahul Gupta Expert

'Whom' is thankfully disappearing from the English language but for the hopefully few remaining years of its existence, you can teach your students this simple rule:

If the answer to the question uses "he", use "who" in the question.

Q: Who gave you that present?
A: John (he) gave me that present.

Q: Whom is that present for?
A: That present is for John (him).

Of course, more than 90% of native speakers would use who, not whom, in the second conversation but those are the grammar rules. I look forward to the day when 'whom' goes the way of 'thee' and 'thou'.

link answered Jan 04 '13 at 16:44 Shawn Mooney Expert

Yes! Let's certainly dumb down the language even more! Let's make it so sloppy that all clarity will be lost!

TolleyJan 04 '13 at 17:22

Hmm, don't particularly want to start a war here, and am open to being converted, but what clarity is lost, exactly, by sending 'whom' to the grammar dustbin?

Shawn MooneyJan 04 '13 at 17:52

My thought is that the difference between who and whom is the same as the difference between I and me. One is the subject and the other is the object. The fact that a lot of people get it wrong doesn't seem like a good enough reason to encourage change to the language. Isn't that rather the same as saying, "So many people write U instead of You, so we should just get rid of the word You." Indeed, that may happen some day, but until that organically happens encouraging it feels lazy or sloppy.

Patty TJan 05 '13 at 05:53

I appreciate that perspective but in terms of what is currently acceptable, "who/whom" is not comparable to "you/u" - although I take your larger point. In fact, whom's disappearance IS organically happening, and has been for far more than a century. Its use today is widely considered to be overly formal, if not downright pretentious. The only instance where 'who' sounds wrong is following a preposition, and even then, to avoid sounding snobbish, "preposition + whom" constructions should be changed to obviate the need for "whom". "The man on whom I have a crush is sitting over there" sounds horribly stiff; "the man I've got a crush on is sitting over there" is much more natural.

English is always evolving, and everybody's got their pet peeves. I'm all for teaching the grammar rules that communicate meaning and fluency, and am happy to, as I did in my reply above, explain the rules respecting archaisms like "whom"; however, teaching "whom" without the attendant warning about its dinosaurian pretensions would be pedagogical malpractice.

Shawn MooneyJan 05 '13 at 12:56

I recently had a conversation about this topic with the Linguistics professor at my University, and she made a point of saying that the only people who go about saying that "whom" is archaic and unneeded are those who don't really understand the way English works. Language is, indeed, lazy, and the word "whom" may some day be omitted from our language, but to say that the possibility of its becoming obsolete is the reason for making it obsolete, is, at the very least, a bit of circular reasoning, and quite absurd. Until we no longer need to distinguish between "who" as the object and "whom" as the subject, we ought not go around saying they are "dinosaurian." The difference between "who" and "whom" is the same as the difference between "they" and "them." The word "them" might one day be dropped from our language, but that's no reason to drop it right now.

Damon AnsemsJan 05 '13 at 23:56

I regret the tone of this discussion, especially my part in it. My comments on 'snobbish' language no doubt offended those who choose to use 'whom' and that was not my intention. So I shall swallow my offense at being described as someone who doesn't understand how English works in the last comment. :)

I am deeply fascinated by this topic and plan to do a lot of research. Here are a couple articles, blog postings, etc. that have rich resources for further study and I shall dive into them before responding further.




Shawn MooneyJan 07 '13 at 23:36

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Hi Jackie,


Firstly, I accept my mistake .Secondly, whom is not used for possessive. Therefore, I would like to explain about relative clause with examples.


Who - Person doing the action.

Example: The girl who won the lottery was on T.V.

Whom - Person receiving the action

Example: The teacher whom I spoke to didn’t like me.

Whose -  Possessive

Example: James Cameron, Whose movies are popular, is a great action director.

Which & that - Used for things

Example: The movie which I saw last weekend was excellent.
Example: The car that I bought is red.

If you need more information, I can share.

link answered Jan 05 '13 at 06:45 sarasbabu New member

It must be, I admit my mistake.

sanjayJan 05 '13 at 15:21

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1. who used to specify people.



The teacher, who failed my friend, met with an accident.


2. Whom used to specify people (possessive)



The girl whom i am loving went to study in Australia for the past one year.

link answered Jan 05 '13 at 04:35 sarasbabu New member

I must be capital.

sanjayJan 05 '13 at 15:25

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here is a fun link, whether you already understand the distinction between "who" and "whom" or not! after starting the e-lesson, the topic is discussed on page 5, but I would start from the beginning: www.linguicon.com/schools/students/grammar/grammar-2-050/

link comment answered Jan 10 '13 at 19:43 esteban jonatan New member

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