In the English language, few pronoun pairs cause as much debate and confusion as “who” and “whom.”
These two words, while similar in sound, serve different grammatical purposes and can significantly impact the tone and formality of our sentences.
|Word||Part of Speech||Definition||Example|
|who||Pronoun (subjective)||Used to refer to the subject of a verb, the person who is performing the action.||“Who is going to the store?”|
|whom||Pronoun (objective)||Used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition, the person receiving the action.||“To whom should I send this letter?”|
This article aims to unravel the mystery surrounding these pronouns, providing clear guidelines on their usage with practical examples.
For those eager to test their understanding, an interactive quiz is available in the middle of this article, making learning both engaging and effective.
Section 1: Understanding “Who”
Who: The Subjective Pronoun
“Who” functions as a subjective pronoun in sentences. It is used to refer to the subject of a verb, that is, the person who is performing the action.
Its usage is straightforward in both questions and statements, making it more commonly used in everyday speech.
Examples of “Who” in Use
Consider the following sentences:
- “Who made this cake?” Here, “who” refers to the person who performed the action of making the cake.
- “The person who called earlier left a message.” In this case, “who” identifies the subject performing the action of calling.
“Who” is predominantly used in interrogative sentences but can also appear in relative clauses:
- “Who is going to the store?” (question)
- “She knows who can help with your project.” (relative clause)
Section 2: Exploring “Whom”
Whom: The Objective Pronoun
“Whom” serves as an objective pronoun. It is used when referring to the object of a verb or preposition, often seen in more formal or written English.
The use of “whom” can lend a sentence a traditional or formal tone, though its usage in everyday language is becoming less common.
Usage in Sentences
Here are examples illustrating the use of “whom”:
- “To whom should I address the letter?” In this question, “whom” is the object of the preposition “to.”
- “The man whom you met yesterday is my uncle.” “Whom” here is the object of the verb “met.”
Traditionally, “whom” is the correct choice when it refers to the object of a sentence. For example:
- “Whom did you call?” (“You called whom.”)
- “The author, whom we met last week, signed books.” (“We met whom last week.”)
Who of Whom Whats the Difference Quiz
You can check out our quiz to practice the difference between its and it’s here as well.
Who vs. Whom Quiz
Question 1: “_________ will be attending the meeting?”
Question 2: “To _______ should I address this letter?”
Question 3: “_________ is the best candidate for the job?”
Question 4: “To _______ did she give the book?”
Question 5: “_________ should we invite to the party?”
Question 6: “To _______ did you dedicate this song?”
Question 7: “_________ is responsible for the project’s success?”
Question 8: “With _______ did you meet yesterday?”
Question 9: “_________ wrote this beautiful poem?”
Question 10: “To _______ did you speak on the phone?”
Total Score: 0
Section 3: Tips for Remembering the Difference
The choice between “who” and “whom” can be simplified with a few practical tips:
- Substitution Method: A reliable way to decide between “who” and “whom” is the substitution test. Replace “who” or “whom” with “he” or “him” (or “they” and “them”). If “he” or “they” fits, use “who.” If “him” or “them” sounds right, “whom” is the word to use. For example:
- For the sentence “___ is at the door?” Replace the blank with “he” or “him.” Since “He is at the door” makes sense, the correct word is “who.”
- Understanding the Grammar: Remember that “who” is used for subjects (the ones doing the action) and “whom” for objects (the ones receiving the action).
- Common Errors: Avoid the mistake of using “whom” to sound more formal or educated without understanding its proper use. Overusing “whom” in incorrect places can be as glaring as not using it where it’s appropriate.
Section 4: The Role of Context and Formality
The usage of “whom” has declined in modern conversational English, with many native speakers opting for “who” in most cases.
However, in formal writing, academic contexts, and certain fixed expressions (like “To whom it may concern”), “whom” is still expected.
Understanding your audience and the context can guide you on which pronoun to choose.
Navigating the differences between “who” and “whom” might seem daunting at first, but with practice and the application of simple rules, it becomes much more manageable.
As English continues to evolve, so does the use of these pronouns. Yet, a clear understanding of “who” and “whom” not only enhances your grammar but also improves the clarity and credibility of your communication.
What to Do next?
Have you ever struggled with deciding between “who” and “whom”? Share your experiences in the comments below.
If you’re looking for a fun way to test your knowledge, check out our interactive quiz on this topic.
Keep exploring and improving your English language skills with our resources!
Other Commonly Confused words in English
|Affect and Effect||Accept and Except||Advise and Advice||your and you’re|
|Lay and lie||Who and whom||Its and It’s||lose and loose|
|to, two and too||That and Which||pray and pray||write, right and rite|
|who’s and whose||emigrate and immigrate||farther and further|
We also have an article with over 50 of the most commonly confused words in English here on the site.