Who is asking whom? In contemporary speaking, as well as writing, there is general confusion in the proper usage of the words who and whom. It seems that many shy away from the word whom altogether, acting as if it has no existence or place in modern language.   Ah, but there is a proper place for each of the words and once you understand the difference, their usage will come easily.

The word who and a varying form whoever are used as a subject, placing them in the subjective case.

The word whom and its variance, whomever, are used in the objective case, that is, the object of the verb being used.

Let’s look at some examples of usage –

Who is going to the party with you?

This sentence makes it easy to see that who is indeed the subject.

He is the one whom they all feared.

This sentence may not seem as easy as the first.   So how can you be sure you are using the correct word?

If you are unsure, try substituting he/she for who and him/her for whom.   By doing this, our first example becomes –

He is going to the party with you?

  • Yes, this one checks out okay.  And our second example.
  • He is the one him they all feared.
  • That just doesn’t sound right, but when we shift the words around, we get.
  • They all feared him.
  • So, whom is correct in our second example.
  • See what you think about these sentences.

Which word is correct?

  • We all know who/whom wrote that book.
  • We’ll be voting for Tom, who/whom we all know.
  • In the first sentence, who would be correct, as we could say, He wrote that book.
  • The second sentence would use whom, since by shifting the words around, we get, We all know him.

Even with practice, there may be times when you are still confused.   When this happens, simply use your substitution words to see which one will be the correct choice.

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