Both whoever and whomever are relative pronouns, just like who, whom, which, whose, and that. They are used to connect a noun to a phrase or clause to make a noun phrase. However, whoever and whomever are not interchangeable. Read on to find examples of each of these words, as well as a surefire way to tell them apart.
Know When to Use Whoever vs. Whomever With This Trick
When to Use Whoever vs. Whomever
The difference between whoever and whomever is their use in a sentence. Whoever is used as a subject pronoun, while whomever is an object pronoun. Like who and whom, the trick to telling whoever and whomever apart is the letter M.
Both him and whomever are object pronouns and have M’s in them. If you can replace the word whomever with him, you’ve used it correctly. If you need to use he (a subject pronoun) to make the sentence correct, you should use whoever.
For example: Whoever/whomever owns the black Lexus needs to move it.
He owns the black Lexus.
Him owns the black Lexus.
Which choice sounds correct? He is a subject pronoun and does not have an M. In this case you would use whoever. Thus, the correct sentence would read: Whoever owns the black Lexus needs to move it.
Another example: You can invite whoever/whomever you want to the concert.
You can invite he.
You can invite him.
You is the subject pronoun of the sentence, making the person to be invited to the concert the object. Because him sounds correct as the object, choose whomever as the other pronoun with an M: You can invite whomever you want to the concert.
Examples of Whoever in a Sentence
Whoever joins pronouns like I, we, he, she, and they to perform the action in the sentence when you don’t know who the subject is. It takes on several different uses, depending on the purpose of the sentence. Here are some examples of how to use whoever in a sentence.
Whoever gets to the restaurant first should put our name on the list.
Whoever finishes their meal last has to pay the bill.
Whoever wants to go to the store should get in the car now.
Whoever wins the election will make a victory speech.
Whoever wants the last piece of pizza can have it.
Whoever is typically the first word in the sentence. However, like all subjects, it only needs to come before the sentence’s verb. Sentences with whoever always contain a dependent clause.
Examples of Whomever in a Sentence
Object pronouns like whomever include me, us, him, her, and them. They are receiving the action in the sentence. But, when should you use whomever in a sentence? Check out these examples to understand the difference.
Harry should give the award to whomever he thinks deserves it.
I impress whomever I meet.
The writer dedicated his book to whomever he met during the publication.
I’ll interview whomever you send into my office.
The political party nominates whomever they believe will win the election.
Keep in mind that while these instances do precede verbs, they are not the active verbs in the sentence. In most cases, the subject is also performing the verb that follows whomever.
Whoever and Whomever in Questions
Unlike whoever and whomever, who and whom can function as interrogative pronouns. They ask questions to learn someone’s identity. Some examples include:
Who ate the chocolate doughnut?
To whom does this dog belong?
Who will be the next president?
Changing who and whom to whoever and whomever change these questions to noun phrases, which need another clause to become a full sentence. For example:
Whoever ate the last doughnut should buy a new box.
Whomever this dog belongs to needs to use a leash.
Whoever will be the next president depends on the election.
The noun phrases become the subjects of the sentence, which then perform the verbs “buy,” “needs,” and “depends.” While it is not impossible to use whoever and whomever in a question, it can result in awkward phrasing. Rewriting the sentence is a good way around it.
Who/Whom or Whoever/Whomever?
All four pronouns indicate that the speaker does not know the identity of the subject or object of a sentence. Who and whom function to determine a specific person’s identity, while sentences with whoever and whomever put more emphasis on the verb and less focus on the person’s identity.
Alice knows who pulled the fire alarm.
Alice knows whoever pulled the fire alarm.
The first sentence emphasizes that Alice knows the identity of a person who pulled a fire alarm. Using whoever in the second sentence creates the noun phrase “whoever pulled the fire alarm,” putting more focus on Alice’s relationship with this person. The difference is subtle but necessary for proper grammar usage.
More Grammar Resources
Clear up your other grammar questions with more informational articles. You can determine the subject of a sentence with helpful examples of the three types of subjects. A rundown of the parts of a sentence can remind you about sentence construction and the importance of varying your sentence styles.