Content Tips 6 min read

Who or Whom?

Who is asking this question, and to whom is it directed? Who and whom are commonly misused pronouns. Learn a valuable trick so you never confuse them again.

Who or Whom? These pronouns are not the same. Let's see how they're different and when to use each one correctly | <a href=https://www.shutterstock.com/g/sprymoon target=_blank rel=nofollow noopener noreferrer>Luna 2631</a> - <a href=https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/use-proper-english-grammar-words-who-1144649750 target=_blank rel=nofollow noopener noreferrer>Shutterstock.com</a> <a href=https://www.shutterstock.com/license target=_blank rel=nofollow noopener noreferrer>License</a>

Who or Whom? These pronouns are not the same. Let's see how they're different and when to use each one correctly | Luna 2631 - Shutterstock.com License

“Who” and “Whom” are pronouns that are often misused. It’s tough to know which word is correct. Is it, “Whom shall I call?” or, “Who shall I call?” They both sound correct. Who refers to the subject of a verb or preposition. Whom refers to the object of a verb or preposition. But, which do I use: “who” or “whom”?

Who is asking this question, and to whom is it directed? 

Clear as mud, huh? Read on and I’ll teach you a cool trick on how to know when to use who and whom and share examples to clear up the mystery. 

What Is the Difference Between Whom or Who?

Who and whom are both pronouns. Who refers to a subject of a clause and whom refers to the object of a clause. If the person is doing something, then who is correct. If the person is carrying out an action, then “whom” should be used. The easiest way to learn the correct usage of “who” and “whom” is to try the simple trick: If you should use “who”, you can replace the word with “he” or “she.” If “whom” is correct, replace it with “him” or “her.”

Let’s look at real-life examples:

Who Is Calling My Name?

“Who” is the subject of the sentence. 

Try this trick. Replace who with “he” or she.”

He is calling my name.

It works.

Peter Griffin who vs whom meme asking
Even Peter Griffin gets a kick out of who vs whom. Image from imgflip.com

Now, try whom.

Whom is calling my name?

Replace “whom” with “him” or “her”.

Him is calling my name.

NOPE!

To Whom Should I Speak?

In this sentence, “whom” refers to the object of the verb. 

Let’s try our trick and replace “whom” with “him” and “her”.

Should I speak to him? 

That works.

Let’s try “he” and “she”.

Should I speak to he?

“Whom” is confirmed as correct.

More Who Examples

Who made this mess?

Who would like to clean their rooms?

More Whom Examples

To whom were you addressing?

Whom do you love?

I can’t figure out whom I love. 

How Do You Use Who and Whom Is a Sentence Examples?

“Who” and “whom” are not only confused in speech but commonly in writing. In fact, so much so that the New York Times in 2015 did a story on who vs whom. They pointed out their own mistakes, as well as, other respected news organizations. 

An original Yoda who and whom meme that reads:
Yoda is the original master, even of English grammar. Can’t FORCE a “who” where you need a “whom” | Relatably.comCreative Commons License

Misusing “who” and “whom” is the same as not using the following correctly:

I vs me

he vs him

she vs her

“Who”, “I”, “he”, and “she” are the subjects of a sentence. It’s the person performing the action of the verb. 

“Whom”, “me”, “him”, and “her” are an object. It’s the person to/about/for whom the action is being performed.

You would cringe if someone said Me am a dog lover or Him is so funny.

She called I a dog lover

He made she laugh so hard.

The examples above are ridiculous. We wouldn’t dream of writing these sentences. We need to be just as aware of the use of “whom” and “who”.

Common Misuses of Who and Whom

Let’s look at some misuses of “who” or “whom”. You’d never write me and Sam are going to the store. It would quickly be corrected to Sam and I are going to the store. But this is just as incorrect as the following examples.

A letter of recommendation reads, “I believe Sam is a man whom can do the job.” No. It’s Sam is a man who can do the job.

Here’s another example: Sam is a man who I admire.

If you read this out loud, I bet it sounds correct to you. But, it actually should be Sam is a man whom I admire.

Let’s put your knowledge to the test.

Graphic with the words
How’s your use of whom now? Test your skills with these custom quizzes | Alex GurkaShutterstock.com License

A: Who Shall I Say Is Calling?
B: Whom Shall I Say Is Calling?

Which one do you think is correct?

If you said “B” then you’re wrong. The correct way to write this common phrase is “Who shall I say is calling?”

Let’s use our trick of substituting he or him. “Shall I say he is calling?” sounds correct while “Shall I say him is calling?” is bizarre.

A: To Whom Am I Speaking?
B: To Who Am I Speaking?

Which one is correct?

It’s “A.”

Rephrase the sentence to: I am speaking to who/whom. We would say, “I am speaking to her.” Therefore, whom is correct.

A: Larry Asked Who We Voted For.
B: Larry Asked Whom We Voted For.

Larry asked is a clause. That leaves who/whom we voted for. 

Let’s turn the question into a sentence: Who/whom did we vote for? We would say, “We voted for him.” Therefore, whom is correct.

Screenshot from INK indicating the misuse of whom and correcting to who.
Screenshot from INK indicating the misuse of whom and correcting to who | InkForAll.com

When in Doubt, Use an Online Editor

Knowing the rules of who vs whom usage is important. Online editors can miss grammar mistakes. They are not fool-proof. Nothing can truly replace the human editor. Implement the trick we discussed above. Replace he/she and him/her with who/whom to see what sounds correct if you’re questioning the pronoun usage.

However, it’s always nice to have a second set of eyes double-check your writing just to be safe.

INK

INK checks for word usage and specifically checks for the proper usage of who vs whom. 

I’ve written this article in INK.

INK uses patent-pending AI to optimize your content for search engine optimization. 

If you’re a content creator, the INK editor is a must. 

Takeaways

Here are some misuses of “who” and “whom” is pop culture:

The Doors, Five Seconds of Summer, Bo Diddley, LL Cool J, Ronnie Hawkins, and The Chainsmokers all released a song called “Who Do You Love?” 

No! It should be Whom Do You Love.

Bob Dylan sings in “Immigrant Song”: 

Whom eats but is not satisfied

Whom hears but does not se

He should have penned:

Who eats but is not satisfied

Who hears but does not see

And probably the most famous and well-known misuse of who…

Ghostbusters Logo that reads
Is it “who” or “whom” you gonna call? | Muddy ShoesCreative Commons License
First AI Web Content Optimization Platform Just for Writers

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