Who and whom are both relative pronouns. They function to connect a noun or another pronoun to a phrase or clause with more information. Both words can also work as interrogative pronouns in questions.
Even though they are both the same kind of pronouns, they are not interchangeable. The difference between these words is:
- Who is a subject pronoun.
- Whom is an object pronoun.
You can only use who as the subject of a sentence; in other words, the person who performs the action.
Whom is the object of a sentence. They receive the action performed by the subject.
Here’s the best way to remember when to use to use whom in a sentence.
Remember: It’s all about other subject pronouns (he, she) and object pronouns (him, her).
- Use whom when a sentence needs an object pronoun like him or her.
- For example, “This is for whom?”
- If you rewrite that question as a statement, “This is for him” sounds correct.
Another easy way to remember is the “m” in him and whom. If you can answer the question with him, you’re using whom correctly.
If it doesn’t make sense, it’s probably supposed to be who instead. For example:
- Who ate the last cookie?
- He ate the last cookie. (correct)
- Him ate the last cookie. (incorrect)
- For whom did you bake these cookies?
- I baked the cookies for he. (incorrect)
- I baked the cookies for him. (correct)
Whom is found after the verb (except in a question) and after a preposition in most sentences.
- He is the one whom I love.
- From whom are we running?
- Those flowers came from whom?
- He is the teacher whom we adore.
- Whom shall I call?
Remember that whom is receiving the action while who is performing the action.
- For example, “Who will celebrate whom?”
- In this case, who is performing the action of celebrating, while whom is receiving the action.
Using “To Whom It May Concern” Properly: A Simple Guide
Use who when the subject of the sentence would normally require a subject pronoun like he or she.
- For example, “Who is the best in class?”
- If you rewrite that question as a statement, “He is the best in class” makes sense.
You’re likely to see who in questions and sentences that include relative clauses.
Who both provides more information about a noun and seeks more information in questions.
Sentences in which you would use who instead of whom include:
- Who handed it to her?
- His friend, who lives in Austin, came to visit.
- I wasn’t the one who made him feel unwelcome.
- People who take time to be kind are rewarded for their good deeds.
- Couples who hold hands stay together longer.
Remember, who is the person doing the action. As the subject of a clause, who tends to come before the verb of the sentence.
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