Who vs. Whom: Understanding the Differences in English

Who vs. Whom: Understanding the Differences in English

Usage rules and what is the difference between “Who” and “Whom” is one of the frequently asked questions. These pronouns are commonly used in statements and relative clauses, but their use can be confusing. “Who” and “whom” are interrogative pronouns referring to people. Usually Who is used in the nominative case, whom is used in all others. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between “Who” and “Whom” and provide clear guidance to help you use them correctly.

Definition and Usage: “Who” and “whom” are interrogative pronouns that refer to people. While they serve a similar purpose, their usage within a sentence differs based on their grammatical function.

  • Who“: “Who” is used as the subject of a sentence or a clause. It is used to inquire about the identity of the person performing the action. For example:
    • Who is coming to the party tonight?
    • Who wrote this beautiful poem?
  • Whom“: “Whom” is used as the object of a verb or preposition. It is used to refer to the person who receives the action or the person affected by it. For example:
    • To whom did you give the book?
    • Whom did he invite to the conference?

Guidelines for Choosing Between Who” and “Whom“: To determine whether to use “who” or “whom,” you can follow these steps:

  • Identify the verb or preposition:
    • If the pronoun follows a verb or preposition, it is likely an object, suggesting the use of “whom.”
    • If the pronoun appears at the beginning of the sentence or functions as the subject, “who” is usually the appropriate choice.
  • Replace with “he” or “him“:
    • Substitute the pronoun with either “he” or “him” and observe whether it fits the sentence.
    • If “he” is suitable, use “who.” If “him” fits better, use “whom.”

Example: Consider the sentence: “To _______ did you speak?”

  • Replace the blank with “he” or “him.” It becomes: “To he did you speak?” (Incorrect)
  • Now, try: “To him did you speak?” (Correct) Therefore, the correct choice is “whom.”

Exceptions and Clarifications: While the guidelines mentioned above are generally reliable, there are a few exceptions and clarifications to bear in mind:

  • Informal Usage: In informal conversation or writing, the use of “whom” is becoming less common. Many native English speakers prefer using “who” instead of “whom” in everyday speech. However, it is still essential to understand the formal rules, especially for formal writing or examinations.
  • Relative Clauses: In relative clauses, “who” is commonly used to refer to both subjects and objects. For example:
    • The woman who you saw yesterday is my sister.
    • The person who I spoke to was very helpful.

Mastering the correct usage of “who” and “whom” is crucial for effective communication in English. By understanding their grammatical functions and following the guidelines provided, you can confidently navigate between these pronouns and express yourself accurately. Remember that practice, exposure to authentic English materials, and seeking feedback are key to improving your language skills.

Video – WHO | WHOM | WHOSE | WHO’S – Important English Grammar Lesson!

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