Who vs. Whom

Whom should be used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition. When in doubt, try this simple trick: If you can replace the word with “he”’ or “’she,” use who. If you can replace it with “him” or “her,” use whom.

  • Who should be used to refer to the subject of a sentence.
  • Whom should be used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition.

Who or whom? If you’re like most English speakers, you know that there’s a difference between these pronouns, but you aren’t sure what that difference is. After reading this article, you might conclude that knowing when to use who or whom is not as difficult as you think.

Who vs. Whom Explanation

When to Use Who

In a sentence, who is used as a subject. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Who would like to go on vacation?
Who made these awesome quesadillas?

When to Use Whom

Whom is used as the object of a verb or preposition. Consider these examples:

To whom was the letter addressed?
Whom do you believe?
I do not know with whom I will go to the prom.

The Difference Between Who and Whom

How can you tell when your pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition? Try substituting “he” or “she” and “him” or “her.” If “he” or “she” fits, you should use who. If “him” or “her” fits, you should use whom. Keep in mind that you may have to temporarily rearrange the sentence a bit while you test it.

Who/whom ate my sandwich?

Try substituting “she” and “her”: She ate my sandwich. Her ate my sandwich. “She” works and “her” doesn’t. That means the word you want is who.

Whom ate my sandwich?

Who ate my sandwich?

Let’s look at another:

Who/whom should I talk to about labeling food in the refrigerator?

Try substituting “he” and “him”: I should talk to he. I should talk to him. “Him” works, so the word you need is whom.

Whom should I talk to about labeling food in the refrigerator?

You can also use questions to determine when to use who and when to use whom. Are you talking about someone who is doing something?

Gina drives her mother’s car to school.

Yes, you are talking about someone doing something, so use who in your question.

Who drives her mother’s car to school?

Now look at this sentence:

The car is driven to school by Gina.

No, the subject of the sentence (car) is not performing the action. Use whom in your question.

The car is driven to school by whom?
By whom is the car driven to school?

If you think the whom examples sound awkward or prissy, you are not alone. Many people don’t use whom in casual speech or writing. Others use it only in well-established phrases such as “to whom it may concern.” Some people never use it. It’s not unusual at all to hear sentences like these:

Who do you believe?
Who should I talk to about labeling food in the refrigerator?

Who vs. Whom Quiz

Who Whom Quiz

Weekly Grammar Tips
Weekly Grammar Tips
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Comments
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  • Smita

    Hello..can you please help me out here. In the following sentence
    “I saw the woman who/whom you said lived next door”.
    which one is correct who or whom?

    • Toni Delforge-Burgess

      Neither. The sentence should read, “I saw the woman you said lived next door.” Who or whom should not be used in this sentence.

      • roxxr soxxr

        Agreed. That’s a dreadful sentence, rewrite it to negate a wordy mess.

    • Miler Cesías

      I agree neither of them should be used, but I would suggest using “that” instead of “who or whom” . You may use “That” or simply “No pronoun” at all. Both are correct.

    • Raz

      1. I saw the woman you said lived next door.
      (or)
      2. I saw the woman you said who lived next door.

      Both are correct. Just notice that the same rule can be applied. Suppose the saying is “You said ‘she’ lived next door”. So “who” would be applied here.

  • Salvatore_Loyalist

    Is it “Who/Whom do you want to see sit on the iron throne?”

    • Ulyssees

      Whom. Because you’d say “I want to see him sit on the throne.” Not “he.”

    • Who. Precisely because you are asking a question about “who” will sit on the iron throne.

  • Julie Blake

    Shouldn’t it be, ‘To whom should I speak about…’?

    • roxxr soxxr

      Yes. Same as “to whom should this letter be addressed?” Substitute pronouns for a quick indicator – him/her.- for me it worked more accurately (and faster) to go by the feel of the word than a strict application of rule.

  • Which is correct here: a. We are interviewing important people who the mainstream media fail to. or b. We are interviewing important people whom the mainstream media fail to. ?? – I appreciate it.

    • Ulyssees

      B. You would say “The mainstream media fail to interview them.” Not “they.” So you’d use “whom” in your example.

    • Peggy

      You are both wrong. Ending a sentence with ‘to’ is just awful so you should say or write: “We are interviewing those important people the mainstream media has failed to interview.” You don’t need either ‘who’ or ‘whom’.

  • Rahul Ranjan

    Excellent! Thank you 🙂
    Won’t be confused even again with Who or Whom.

  • Overuse of ‘whom’ is an interesting phenomenon. People do it when they are nervous about their status or education.

    • Choomba

      There is no such thing as “overuse” of “whom”. Either you do or do not use it correctly–and if you do, you do so on a consistent basis.

      • Some people are afraid to use “whom” for the simple fact
        Of not knowing grammar deeply.

        • Pia Lys

          That’s me, lol. I need to take a refresher course.

  • Lewis Goudy

    “Federal funding mostly goes to Planned Parenthood in the form of Medicaid dollars, which are set aside to provide health care for poor Americans, and that’s who these funding cuts will largely affect.”

    Shouldn’t it be “whom”? Also, is “that’s” correct as opposed to “they are”?
    “they are whom” definitely sounds right, but “that’s whom” sounds a little off.

    • Peggy

      How about “. . . and they are the people who will be affected by these cuts.” Simple is always better and ‘whom’ is nearly always pretentious and unnecessary. In this case reminding everyone that it is not ‘whoms’ who are involved but actual, living, breathing, poor ‘people’ is much stronger and more useful.

  • Phanes Erichthoneus

    Languages are adjusted over time. I’d personally like to see this who/whom thing go away along with lay/lie, simply because, like the article suggests, it sounds prissy. lol I know how to use lay, lie, lain, laid, etc…, but for some bizarre reason, it just feels weird to use those words properly. I’m a man, but if I say, “I lay on the bed”, it seems to indicate I had been wearing a flowery dress when doing so.

    If someone wants to say:

    – I want to go lay down on the bed.

    …why does that have to be incorrect?

    – I want to go lay [my body] down on the bed.

    Besides, in a language where a bow can be a decoratively tied ribbon, a weapon, used to play the violin, and the front part of a boat (different pronunciation, but still…), I think people can keep the meaning of “who” and “lay” straight in their minds with context.

    • Peggy

      Being picky a bit – ‘to go lay’ is not actually correct usage. You should write ‘to go and lay’ which is actually a short and acceptable form for ‘ to go’ and ‘to lay’ which are separate verbs. Running them together as ‘to go lay’ or ‘to go meet’ or ‘to go write’ or any of the other nasties, is wrong. Horrible language, I know, but it is, now, apparently the one we have all more or less agreed is the dominant one so we’d better all get it right before even greater confusion and misunderstanding make things even worse than they are!

    • Diego

      “After a period of over 25 years since the formal teaching of grammar was abandoned in most states school there have been recent call in both Britain and the United States for the reintroduction of grammar teaching as ‘a return to basic’ “. This was written in “the Oxford English Grammar” by Sidney Greenbaum, in 1996. If this is true, this means simply that one-generation and a half does not know what ” grammar” means. And it’s funny, to my ears, that who calls himself with a name more than two thousand years old, is speaking about “the languages that change”. And sadly I smile, because also in Italy who (not whom…) does not know the grammar says that his mistakes are the “modern” language.

  • Dean

    GREAT RESOURCE AND TIPS!

    -SO bottom line: are you saying THIS IS INCORRECTand should not be used?

    • Peggy

      Absolutely – I deliberately use ‘whom’ only when I’m trying to ‘take the mickey’ as we say in England and making a bit of a joke of what I’m saying. I can’t think of any time in my life when I’ve used ‘whom’ (except in writing) in any other way and those who do use it in speech immediately prove themselves, in my opinion, to be pretentious fools who haven’t a clue about English. Let’s lose it and laugh at all who continue to use it.

  • Adrian Bailey

    “I do not know with whom I will go to the prom.” might be correct if you’re Sheldon Cooper, but normal people say “I do not know who I will go to the prom with.”

    • Peggy

      . . . and ending a sentence with a preposition is so much better than bothering to speak or write well. (Sarcasm!) Surely people who go to proms would say “I don’t know who I’m going to the prom with” as they are about to graduate from high schooll and haven’t been taught a single useful thing about English usage.

  • Alex Besogonov

    For speakers of languages with grammar cases it’s very easy to understand the difference: “who” is used for nominative (and vocative) case and “whom” is used for all other cases.
    English has lost its grammar cases and only some remnants are staying. But not for long, “whom” is probably destined to go the way of “thou” pretty soon.

  • Ayush Vora

    bit.ly/whovswhomblog seems to be broken.

  • Peggy

    I quote from above: “Whom should I talk to about labeling food in the refrigerator?”

    Sorry, that one’s just horribly, inexcusably, appallingly, annoyingly wrong!! It should, of course, be “To whom should I talk about labeling food . . . . ”

    “Whom” is a word that should be stricken from English (and especially from AmerEnglish) as the number of people who know how to use properly is tminiscule. Most of those who use it don’t realize that a very simple, quick rewording of the sentence will make the speaker sound a little pedantic but that is the whole point of using it, so using it badly has entirely the opposite eeffect!

    Nothing drives the English closer to madness than having illiterate ‘furriners’ pretending to teach their language and doing it badly.

  • Derek Rubinoff

    I’ve read the above but been unable to determine which is correct. Can someone kindly help me with the following sentence for a job posting:

    “The candidate whom we need to join our team should be ambitious.”

    Or

    “The candidate who we need to join our team should be ambitious.”

    • “The candidate whom we need to join our team should be ambitious.”
      “The candidate which we need to join our team should be ambitious.”
      * These two examples are correct.

      • Derek Rubinoff

        thx!

  • WHO versus WHICH

    Who of them arrived first in the first place?
    Which of them arrived first in the first place?

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