Deciding whether to use who or whom has plagued people for years. It's tough to know which word is correct. Is it, "Whom shall I save?" or, "Who shall I save?" They both kind of sound okay, don't they? Well, let's explore the depths of "who" or "whom" and look into some easy ways to remember, including tips and tricks to make it all stick.
First, it's important to note "who" and "whom" are both pronouns. That's right; the two words in question belong to the same "I-you-he-she-it-we-you-they" family. And, believe it or not, that's precisely what's going to help us break it all down and choose the correct word.
Next, it's also important to note "who" refers to a subject of a clause and "whom" refers to the object of a clause. So, if you think in terms of people doing something then "who," as the subject, is the person carrying out the action or doing something. Conversely, "whom," as the object, is the person receiving the action.
Knowing "who" is the subject of a clause while "whom" is the object of a clause is one thing. Seeing it in action will help this stick in your memory bank.
Let's look at a few examples with "who."
Who handed it to her?
His friend who lives in Austin came to visit.
I wasn't the one who made him feel unwelcome.
People who take time to be kind are rewarded for their good deeds.
Couples who hold hands stay together longer.
Remember, "who" is the person doing the action. As the subject of a clause, "who" tends to come before the verb of the sentence.
Now, let's take a look at where "whom" lands in the grand scheme of things.
He is the one whom I love.
Why are we running and from whom are we running?
Those flowers came from whom?
He is our savior whom we adore.
Whom shall I call?
"Whom" tends to land after a preposition, like "from" and "to." It also tends to come after the verb of the sentence. However, that's not to discount it from being the first word in a sentence.
The important point to remember is that "whom" is receiving the action while "who" is performing the action. For example, "We will celebrate whom?" In this case, "whom" is receiving the action of celebrating.
If all that seems a tad too technical, here's the best way to remember when to use "who" and when to use "whom."
Use "who" when the subject of the sentence would normally require a subject pronoun like "he" or "she."
For example, "Who is the best in class?" If you rewrote that question as a statement, "he is the best in class" makes perfect sense.
Use "whom" when a sentence needs an object pronoun like "him" or "her." For example, "This is for whom?" Again, if you rewrote that question as a statement, "this is for him" sounds correct.
With this in mind, it's easier to avoid common errors. Let's take a look at some additional examples, beginning with the following conundrum: Is it "who" left this package at my door or "whom" left this package at my door?
Well, let's substitute "he" and "him" into each sentence. Would you say "he" left this package at my door or "him" left this package at my door? Since the answer is "he," you know to say or write, "Who left this package at my door?"
Let's try another one. Is it "who" should I invite on my vacation or "whom" should I invite on my vacation? Let's substitute "he" and "him" again.
Would you say I should invite "he" or I should invite "him"? Since the answer is "him," you know to say or write, "Whom should I invite on my vacation?"
Let's end the great debate between "who" and "whom" by remembering to test it with a quick switch between "he" and "him" or "she" and "her." That said, it's important to end on one final note.
If, someday, you accidentally say, "Who should I invite on my vacation?" instead of, "Whom should I invite on my vacation?" the world won't stop turning and you won't sound like a fool. It's really not that far off base and, in an informal setting, most people may not even notice.
But, isn't it nice to know you're choosing the right word as often as possible? Well, then how about a little more fodder for the fire? Here's an extensive list of commonly confused words. Perhaps you can commit some of those pairs to memory as well.