Know Thy English: “Who” vs “Whom”

Let’s settle this baby once and for all.

I don’t remember that last time I’ve used whom. I guess it’s slowly becoming acceptable these days to simply use who in all cases. And I’ve seen that there are actually people who will argue that whom is antiquated and should be left at peace! Yet, I firmly believe that there are cases indeed where it pays to know the difference, and no one is killing you for using correct English anyway, so why not!

But before I get into the technicalities, there is in fact one golden rule of thumb: When in doubt, always use ‘who’. A misplaced ‘whom’ is worse than a misplaced ‘who’.

In the latter case, you would at best be thought of as naive but the former would just make you a pretentious snob!

Anyway, onto the details then –

who – used for the subject of a sentence

whom – used for the object

For example, consider the below sentence.

Jack saw Kate at the wedding.

Here Jack -> subject of the verb, Kate -> object. So if I were to ask questions about the identity of either of them, this is how I’d do.

  1. Who saw Kate at the wedding?
  2. Jack saw whom at the wedding? (or) Whom did Jack see at the wedding?

I also found online that a better way to remember this is to answer the question with a pronoun. And if the answer is he, she, they, I, we, etc., you use who. If the answer is him, her, them, me, us, etc., you use whom.

To revisit the above questions –

  1. Who saw Kate at the wedding? ( He saw Kate…)  Ergo, Who.
  2. Jack saw whom at the wedding? (Jack saw her…) Ergo, Whom.

So, there you go! Quite a simple but a very important lesson. Long live whom!! 😀

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5 thoughts on “Know Thy English: “Who” vs “Whom”

  1. Very interesting this one is, it’s good that I learnt this because I never actually where or what ‘Whom’ really meant. I’m definitely going to keep this in mind the next time I come across this situation.

    Thanks again man,

    Ainsworth 🙂

    Like

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