Word Showdown: Who vs. Whom

Today on Word Showdown, we have who and whom. These two are often confused, but like twins trying to be their own people, they have different roles and hopes and dreams!

whowhom

The difference is that who is the subject of a sentence, which means the who is doing the action: Who made me this pie?

Whom, on the other hand, is the object of the sentence, meaning the whom is having something done to it: To whom did you mean to send the pie?

One easy trick to hear the distinction is to replace who with he and whom with him. Obviously who/she and whom/her work too, but the similar sound of him and whom helps me remember. With this in mind, the above examples would become:

  • He made me this pie.
  • To him did you mean to send the pie. (Or, if you rearrange it: You meant to send the pie to him.)

Clearly it’s not the best phrasing, but it may help your ear recognize the difference. After all these sound way worse:

  • Him made me this pie.
  • To he did you mean to send the pie. (Or, if you rearrange it: You meant to send the pie to he.)

Let’s test your knowledge!

A. Who/whom stole your happiness?

B. Who/whom do you love?

C. Who/whom should we give the stainless steel spork to?

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And the answers are . . .

A. Who stole your happiness? (He stole your happiness sounds better than Him stole your happiness.)

B. Whom do you love? (Yes, Bo Diddley was wrong. Here, you is the subject giving the love and whom is the object receiving the love.)

C. Whom should we give the stainless steel spork to? (The action here is being done to whom. If we rearrange the sentence, we’d get We should give the stainless steel spork to him. And for those who think you can’t end a sentence with a preposition, know that CMS calls that a grammar superstition. For more information, see CMS 5.176. )

For an amazing explanation of who and whom by The Oatmeal, check this out, and go get yourself some pie.

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