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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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