Arts Who Knows Whom?
posted by January 29 at 13:42 PMon
I see “who/whom” confusion daily here in the work of otherwise careful writers. So I’m sharing my trick for deciding when to use who vs. whom. It’s an oversimplification for sure, but it works most of the time.
Isolate the clause containing the troublesome “who”/”whom” (or “whoever”/”whomever”); ignore everything else. (Sometimes this means switching word order around. When the word is the object in a question, you may have to restructure the question into a statement, as in example (2) below.)
Substitute “him” and then “he” for of the word in question and see which sounds correct.
If “him” sounds better, then choose “whom”—the “m”on the end of both words is your clue. If “he” sounds better, then choose “who” (no “m”).
1. I want to know who/whom made this mess.
Simplified: Who made this mess/Whom made this mess
he made this mess/him made this mess
“he” is better = “who” is correct
2. Eli wants to know who/whom you’d like to see in office.
Simplified: You’d like to see he in office/You’d like to see him in office
“him” is better = “whom” is correct.
The key to correctness lies in the fact that “who” is the subject case and “whom” is the object case, just like “he” is subject case and “him” is object case—which is why this trick works.