Who Versus Whom

Mignon Fogarty,
March 9, 2007
Episode #044

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Today's topic is "who" versus "whom."

I've received many requests from listeners to cover this topic.

Here's Noreen: I just wondered if possibly in one of your episodes you could go through the use of who versus whom. I think that's a common misunderstanding with many people who write.

And an unnamed caller:

"Who" and "whom": that's always a tough one.

"Who" or "Whom"?

So here we go. The words "who" and "whom" are both pronouns. I'll have a quick and dirty trick for you later, but first I want you to actually understand the right way to use these words.

First, to know whether to use "who" or "whom," we need to talk about the difference between subjects and objects because you use "who" when you are referring to the subject of a clause and "whom" when you are referring to the object of a clause.

See Also: What Is a Subordinate Clause? and Arbitration Clauses.

I know: subject and object sound pretty abstract, but it's easy. If we think about people, the subject of the sentence is the person doing something, and the object of the sentence is having something done to them. If I step on Squiggly, then I am the subject and Squiggly is the object.

Still having a hard time remembering? Here's my favorite mnemonic: If I say, "I love you," you are the object of my affection, and you is also the object of the sentence (because I am loving you, making me the subject and you the object). How's that? I love you. You are the object of my affection and my sentence. It's like a Valentine's Day card and grammar mnemonic all rolled into one.


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