quinta-feira, 3 de fevereiro de 2011

How to Use "Who" and "Whom" Correctly

How to Use "Who" and "Whom" Correctly: "
Who or Whom?
Who or Whom?
The correct use of who and whom in questions may seem like a lost battle, still joined only by punctilious English teachers, but the correct usage remains important in formal writing. Even careful speakers have not yet surrendered the distinction either! After reading this article, you will feel more comfortable using the distinction of 'who' and 'whom' correctly.


  1. Understand the difference between who and whom. Both who and whom are pronouns. However, 'who' is used as the subject of a sentence or phrase, to denote who is doing something (like he or she). On the other hand, 'whom' is used as the object of a verb, to denote whom has something done to it (like him or her). While a preposition (at, by, for, in, with, etc.) often comes before 'whom', this is not always the case, so the key question is to ask 'who is doing what to whom'. What follows is a quick way to determine which pronoun to use in a particular question.
  2. Use whom when referring to the object of a verb.
    • To whom it may concern:
    • To whom did you talk today?
    • Whom does Sarah love?

  3. Use who when referring to the subject of a sentence or phrase.
    • Who brought the paper inside?
    • Who talked to you today?
    • Who went to dinner?
    • Who ate the cake?

  4. Ask yourself if the answer to the question would be he or him. If you can answer the question with him, then use whom. It's easy to remember because they both end with 'm'. If you can answer the question with he, then use who.
    • Example: A suitable answer to the question, 'To [who or whom] did the prize go?' is, 'It went to him.' (It is improper to say 'It went to he.') The correct pronoun for the question is whom.
    • Example: A suitable answer to the question, '[Who or Whom] went to the store?' is, 'He went to the store.' (It is improper to say 'Him went to the store.') The correct pronoun for the question who.

  5. When trying to decide whether who or whom is correct, simplify the sentence. Where other words in a complex sentence might throw you off track, simplify the sentence to include just the basic subject, verb, and object. It helps to move the words around in your head to identify the word relationships. For example:
    • 'Marie Antoinette and her ladies-in-waiting only invited people to their party [who or whom] they considered to love parties as much as they did.' The simplified mental version becomes: 'whom they considered.'
    • 'Marie Antoinette prevented her mother from knowing [who or whom] she invited to the Petit Trianon.' The simplified mental version becomes: '[who or whom] she invited.' Then, you could rearrange it again to say: 'she invited whom', clarifying that she did something to (invited) whom.

  6. The distinction between who and whom is less important in informal spoken language than it is in formal written language. It's possible that the distinction might someday erode away altogether. For now, though, it is important to keep the distinction clear in written language.



  • Ask yourself 'who did what to whom?'
  • It is possible to write around problems involving who and whom, but the result is almost always clumsy. If you write 'To which person did the prize go?' because you can't remember that whom is the correct pronoun for such a question, you will have avoided a grammatical error at the expense of elegance.
  • Here's a useful mnemonic for remembering about objects and subjects; If you say 'I love you', then 'you' is the object of your affection and the object of the sentence. 'I' is the subject. '[Whom or Who] do I love?' is 'Whom do I love?' because the answer, 'you', is an object.
  • Learning another language can help greatly. In most languages, using 'who' in the place of 'whom' can cause great confusion. A great example of this is German or Spanish.


  • There is much confusion and misuse on this topic. Just as correctly using whom may make others think that you are intelligent, misusing it may make you seem pompous. Never use whom as a subject pronoun. This is as incorrect as using who where whom is required. Many people will mistakenly believe that you are trying to be formal.
    • 'Whom are you?' is wrong. It is meant to be 'Who are you?'

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