- Who and whom are both pronouns.
- When you’re referring to the subject, use who.
- When it’s the object you’re referring to, use whom.
- Replace who or whom with he or him to figure out the correct word to use.
- Sometimes you may have to break the who or whom rule for the sake of readability or to prevent awkward and unnatural phrasing.
Who and whom are two words that sound very much alike. However, that striking similarity just makes it all the more confusing for writers to figure out which term to use.
But, it all comes down to knowing how those pronouns are used.
Stay tuned as we break down who vs. whom and give you a handy trick to help keep it all straight.
Who vs. Whom: What’s the Difference?
Ask yourself the following:
- Are you referring to the subject of the sentence? If so, use the pronoun who.
- Is the object of the sentence what you’re referring to? If so, use the pronoun whom.
Here’s a trick that you can use if you get stuck. When deciding on whom vs. who, think of it as he vs. him.
- If you can answer the question with “he,” you’ll want to use who—no “m” at the end!
- However, if you can answer the query with “him,” you’ll want to use whom. They both have an “m” at the end!
But wait! What if you’re talking about a woman instead of a man? No worries—we only used “he” or “him” because it makes it easier to highlight the “m” connection. While “whom“ or “him” is a quick and memorable mnemonic device, the same idea applies to “she” or “her.”
- If you can answer the question with “she,” you’ll want to use who.
- On the other hand, if the answer to the question is “her,” you’ll want to use whom.
How do you use Who in a Sentence?
Of course, not all sentences are questions, but the same rule applies. In that case, using the she/her–he/him test requires reordering the sentence first.
Flip the sentence around and switch who/whom with he/him. Remember, you’re acting on the subject of the sentence — in this case, that’s “salesman.”
Because “he” is the best fit, you’ll want to choose “who” instead of “whom.”
Who vs. Whom Example Sentences?
Wondering when to use whom? There are many ways to use whom in a sentence. All correct examples follow the he vs. him rule. Remember: If you can answer the question with “him,” then you should be using “whom.”
You would answer this with, “I owe my thanks to him.” Using the m=m part of the who vs. whom rule, we get:
Here are some more examples:
When the sentence isn’t a question, the same rule applies. You just may have to do some reordering first to find your answer.
Think of the sentence as “He/him got the other half of my candy bar.”
Is it With Who or With Whom?
There’s a tendency to think “with whom” is always correct. That’s probably because it sounds so spiffy and proper. You can practically see a peanut with a monocle saying, “With whooooom will you be attending my birthday soirée?”
While that example is correct, it’s not because it’s fancier. We know that “whom” is the best option because it is the object of the preposition.
We can also refer back to our he vs. him test to help decide on who or whom.
You saw the movie with him, not he, so “with whom“ is correct.
Is it True Who is Better Than Whom?
There is one other thing to consider, though. While there are instances in which whom or who is technically correct, it may still be a wrong choice. Why? When you’re writing for clarity, go with the option that’s easiest to understand. That may mean reworking your sentence to exclude who/whom entirely.
According to basic grammar rules, “whom” is definitely correct in both examples. Still, neither sentence is necessarily something the average person would say. Maybe not even a peanut with a monocle.
If you’re writing dialogue, you may end up breaking grammar rules to use something less cumbersome. For example, “Who should I talk to about getting my gym pass upgraded?” Sure, it’s not technically correct, but it flows better.
If you’re writing a term paper, it’s probably a better idea to be grammatically correct. It all depends on whom you are writing (see what we did there?).