Who or Whom?

Last updated: January 10, 2019 at 2:59 am

who photoYou’ve probably heard people in the “learned circles” use the words “who” and “whom,” and you’ve probably wondered what’s the difference between these two.

“Who” and “whom” are both pronouns. They both stand in place of a person.

For example:

This is the boy “whom” we were talking about.

This is the boy who won the spelling quiz.

So what really is the difference?

“Who” is a subject pronoun, and “whom” is an object pronoun. When the person in question does something, you use “who.” When something is done to the person in question, use “whom.”

Example:

This is the girl who scored highest in the test. (The girl did something)

This is the girl whom we took on the tour. (Something was done to the girl)

Remember that a subject pronoun performs an action while an object pronoun receives an action.

But wait, there’s more….

Object of a Preposition

When a preposition comes before the pronoun, the objective case must be used. Examples:

  1. Of whom
  2. By whom
  3. From whom
  4. To whom
  5. For whom

etc.

In this case, “whom” is said to be the object of a preposition.

Use “Who” With the Passive Voice

When something is done to the person in question, you use “whom.” But when the verb that follows is in the “passive voice,” use “who” instead.

Examples:

This is the girl whom we invited.

But…

This is the girl who was was invited.

This is the boy whom we took on the tour.

But…

This is the boy who was taken on the tour.

That is because, when the passive voice of a verb is used, the subject of the sentence receives an action.

When the verb is in the passive voice, the subject receives an action, but it is still the subject, therefore, use the subject pronoun “who.”

To recap:

Subject pronouns: I, you, he, she, it they, who.

Object pronouns: me, you, him, her, it, them,whom.

 

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