Should you choose who or whom

Who vs. Whom: Which Do I Use?

Most people know there is a difference between who and whom, but few remember what it is. In truth, you could go your entire life and only use whom a handful of times, but when those rare grammatical moments strike, if you want to be prepared, we are here to help. (EasyBib.com is also here to help you create citations in MLA format and APA format.)

So what is the difference?

Who=Subject

Who is used when referring to the subject. In other words, who is used for the person doing something in a sentence.

For example:

Laura bought a gift for Frank.

In this sentence, Laura is the subject.

Whom=Object

Whom is used to refer to the object of an action. More simply put, the object in a sentence has something done to it.

For example:

Laura bought a gift for Frank.

In this sentence, Frank is the object.

You may have noticed that there are two objects in this sentence Frank and gift, but remember who and whom are only used when discussing people.

How to Ask Who and Whom Questions

Once you identify the subject and object of a sentence, creating questions using who and whom is easy.

Subject Question

Q: Who bought the gift?

A: Laura

Object Question

Q: For whom was the gift bought?

A: Frank

A Trick

Though the process above is simple, it takes some time. To speed things up, the trick is to answer your own question with a full sentence.

If the answer is “she” or “he,” use who.

If it is “her” or “him” use whom.

For example:

She bought the gift. (Correct)

Her bought the gift. (Incorrect)

So the question must be: Who bought the the gift?

The gift was bought for him. (Correct)

The gift was bought for he. (Incorrect)

So the question must be: For whom was the gift bought?

Tip: The key to remembering this is that him and whom both end in M.

To Whom or Not to Whom

In an attempt to sound more educated some people misuse whom. It is often, incorrectly assumed that whom is a more formal version of who, which results in errors like:

Alison is a woman whom I believe deserves great respect. (Incorrect)

Whom may I say is calling? (Incorrect)

The use of whom does add a formal flourish, but using it incorrectly has the opposite effect.

A Classic Case of Whom

“To Whom it May Concern” is probably the most recognizable use of whom. Before digital communication, it was the go-to introduction for open ended letters like a parent sending an early dismissal letter to school. These days it is recommended to do your research and address your email to a specific person. In rare cases like letters of complaint to a company and open letters of recommendation “To Whom it may Concern” followed by a colon is still appropriate.

Whom will probably be completely eclipsed by who in the future, but until then, we hope this guide leaves you feeling confident to use each with whomever you like.


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