Is it who, or is it whom? We often interchange these two without anyone noticing. How do we know which to use?
When who is used in a sentence, it replaces the subject of the sentence. Here are some examples:
Who stole the cookie from the jar?
Who baked those cookies?
When whom is used, it replaces the object of a preposition or a verb. Here are some examples:
Whom were you speaking on the phone with?
To whom are these letters addressed?
If you notice, it seems like who works for all these sentences just fine. That’s because who is popular as the catch-all pronoun. As a writer, however, it is important to adhere to the rules of grammar.
Don’t worry if you’re still confused at this point. Many people really find it hard to grasp the differences. To explain further, let’s try answering the examples using pronouns.
Q: Who stole the cookie from the jar?
A: He stole the cookie from the cookie jar.
Q: Who baked those cookies?
A: She baked those cookies.
Q: Whom were you speaking on the phone with?
A: I was speaking with him on the phone.
Q: To whom are these letters addressed?
A: The letters are addressed to her.
What did you notice? For the first two sentences, the answers are he and she, which are subject pronouns. For the last two sentences, the answers are him and her, which are object pronouns. Easy, right? So the next time you have difficulty in choosing which one to use, try answering the question first.
If you’re still confused, here’s a simple way to remember things. If the answer to the question is a subject, it’s who. If the answer is an object, it’s whom.
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