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Who vs. whom

Grammar is a set of rules about the structure of language. Most people are indifferent to the invisible gears that make language work. Some people love grammar (me). Some really hate it.

There are lots of things about the English language that trip up even native speakers. Letter combinations such as ie and ei, or gh, or qu often lend themselves to misspelled words. What about who or whom? The University of Kansas is particularly helpful in understanding the ins and outs of who and whom.

1. Who and whoever are subjective = A pronoun that's in the nominative case, which means it's the subject of a verb (and all verbs must have subjects, even if they are implied). Example:

· Who is that actor? (subject)

· Eva is the girl who got the job. (She got the job.)

2. Whom and whomever are in the objective case = A pronoun that is the object of a verb. Example:

· The men, four of whom are elderly, caught the flu last winter. (object)

· Sarah is the woman with whom I went rock climbing last month. (I went rock climbing with her.)

Confusion arises when who is not the primary subject of the sentence, like this:

· It was Nadia Murad, I think, who was one of two people who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

Notice that who, not whom, is still the correct form as the subject of the clause that follows. The proper name, Nadia Murad, could be substituted for who to make a perfectly good sentence:

· Nadia Murad won the Nobel Peace Prize.

TIP: If you’re not sure which to use in the sentence, substitute the personal pronoun he/him or she/her for who/whom. If he or she would be the correct form, the proper choice is who. If him or her is the correct form, use whom.

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