Grammar 6 min read

Whoever vs. Whomever: How to use Them Properly in a Sentence

Main Takeaways:

  • Who and whoever are subject pronouns. They take the place of I, we, she, he, and they.
  • Whom and whomever are object pronouns. They take the place of me, us, her, him, and them.
  • You can begin a sentence using whomever if the object pronoun naturally falls at the beginning of the sentence.
  • If you’re referring to the pronoun him, you should use whomever. If he works better in the sentence, you should opt for whoever.
  • Whomsoever is a more formal word for whomever. Whosoever is a more formal word for whoever.
  • Some modern grammarians believe whom to be a dying pronoun, joining words like thee, thy, and thine.

Knowing whether to use whoever or whomever can be easy once you understand what makes them unique. This guide details the differences when weighing whoever vs. whomever and offers a simple trick for remembering correct usage.

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Many people believe that whomever is nothing more than a more formal version of whoever. But the truth is, they’re unique words with unique functions. So, what’s a writer to do if they’re deciding between whomever or whoever?

If you find yourself changing sentences around to avoid using these words, you aren’t alone, but there is another way. Learning the aspects of whoever vs. whomever can help you make the correct choice every single time.

Whoever vs. Whomever: the Root of it all

Whoever and whomever are interrogative pronouns. Although they both relate to people, they aren’t interchangeable, and they serve different functions in sentences.

To know the differences between whoever vs. whomever, you have to—literally—go to the roots of the words. In other words, you have to understand how who and whom function.

Whoever vs. whomever: Whoever is a subject pronoun. Meanwhile, whomever is an object pronoun.
Whoever is a subject pronoun. Meanwhile, whomever is an object pronoun.

Who = Subject Pronoun

Who functions as a subject pronoun. Basically, it refers to the person executing the action of the sentence (aka the verb). Who takes the place of I, we, she, he, and they. Since it’s also a subject pronoun, the same holds true for whoever.
She shoveled snow off the sidewalk.
Who shoveled snow off the sidewalk out front?
Whoever shoveled snow off the sidewalk did a great job.

Whom = Object Pronoun

Whom and whomever, on the other hand, serve as object pronouns. They basically take the place of me, us, her, him, and them. These words function as the recipients of the action (aka the verb).
The letter was addressed to him.
To whom was the letter addressed?
The letter should go to whomever it was addressed.

Note: When choosing whomever or whoever, pay attention to the clause that includes the word, rather than the entire sentence.

Can you Start a Sentence With Whomever?

Yes. Technically, you can start a sentence with whomever, although it rarely happens. This situation occurs when the object pronoun—the recipient of the action—naturally falls at the beginning of a sentence.

Whomever you choose for the role, it’s fine with me.

In this case, whomever is the recipient of the action (aka choosing), making it an object pronoun. It happens to be located at the beginning of the sentence.

What is the “Him” Trick?

A simple whoever vs. whomever trick involves the use of the word him. It’s an easy way to remember which word to select. Him, whom, and whomever all include the letter M in their spelling. By rephrasing the sentence in question to use the pronoun him, you can see whether you need whomever or whoever. If him works in the sentence, then whomever is the word you want. On the other hand, if he is the appropriate choice for the sentence, then you’ll want to go with whoever.

The money should go to whoever/whomever needs it most.
The money should go to him/he.

Here’s how the sentences look like following the “him” trick:

The money should go to him.
The money should go to whomever needs it most.
Whoever/Whomever is in charge of the third shift should report in at noon.
He/him should report in at noon.
He should report in at noon.
Whoever is in charge of the third shift should report in at noon.

Whosoever vs. Whomsoever

To complicate the battle of who vs. whom and their related words, there’s a third confusing pair to look at: whosoever vs. whomsoever.

Thankfully, there’s no need to worry. If you’ve already grasped the differences between whoever and whomever, you’re good to go. Whosoever and whomsoever are just more formal versions of whoever and whomever.

Whosoever = Whoever

Whomsoever = Whomever

Whoever is in charge of this birthday party should get those kids under control.
Whosoever is in charge of this gala should make sure to attend to the dignitaries.
I will give a name tag to whomever needs one.
I will give a presidential award to whomsoever merits one.

How do I Spell Thee? Let me Count the Ways!

Although who and whom are simple to spell, their lengthier counterparts can be trickier. Common misspellings involve the addition of extra spaces, such as:

  • who ever
  • whom ever
  • who so ever
  • whom so ever

These are all incorrect. All four of these words should be written without spaces.

Whom: Death of a Pronoun

If you’re still confused about the differences between who, whom, and the multitude of related words, there’s good news. Many modern grammarians consider whom to be a dying word.

It wouldn’t be the first pronoun to fall out of use either. Others that have gone before it include thy, thine, ye, and thee. Although they may still show up in religious writing, they’ve fallen out of common use.

Although whom still has a place in formal writing, it is no longer common in spoken English. Many publications have also ceased using it, opting to rephrase sentences to include easier-to-digest pronouns such as him, her, and them.

To Rewrite or not to Rewrite: That is the Question

If you’ve struggled to understand when to use whoever and whomever, you’re in the company of English-speaking writers everywhere. Ultimately, an excellent option for the whoever/whomever dilemma is to reword the sentence and avoid them altogether. It may be a small grammar cheat, but it may mean an easier-to-write and easier-to-read sentence in the long run.

Read More: Who Vs. Whom: A Quick Guide For Which One To Use

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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