Am I the only person who has a problem with who versus whom? Fortunately, I don’t use sentences requiring these words that often, but when I do, I become paralyzed. I’m not sure. I usually read through the sentence a few times using both words and pick the one that sounds better to me. There is nothing scientific about that. It simply boils down to preference.
This week I ran into a method to determine which word is correct, who or whom, and thought I would share my findings on this blog.
- Look at the clause associated with the who or whom. A clause is a set of words with a subject and a verb.
- Scramble the words of the clause (if you have to), so that they form a statement and not a question.
- Substitute either he or him for who or whom. If your sentence is about females, substitute males for the sake of your mnemonic.
- (Who, Whom) called you last night? This sentence has only one clause, so all you need to do is see if it’s necessary to scramble the words to make a statement. You don’t. Once you substitute he or him you have a statement. He called last night. Him called last night. He called last night is the obvious choice. Who is the correct answer. Who called last night?
***Look at the last letter of he and him to determine if you are using who or whom.
he = who
him = whom (they both end with the letter ‘m’)
- (Who, Whom) were you calling last night? This sentence has only one clause, but it does need to be scrambled to make a statement. You called he last night. You called him last night. You called him last night is correct, so the original sentence reads as follows: Whom were you calling last night?
Let’s try a trickier example:
- Sarah was concerned about (Who, Whom) her daughter would be paired off with in the dance competition. This sentence has two clauses, but you’re only concerned with the one containing Who,Whom. Scramble the words to make a statement, and substitute he, him for who, whom. Her daughter would be paired off with him in the dance competition. Her daughter would be paired off with he in the dance competition. Him was the obvious substitute, so we are going to use Whom. Sarah was concerned about whom her daughter would be paired off with in the dance competition.
Still a little complicated, but hope this helps 🙂