Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grammar-licious: Making Grammar Fun - November

Let’s chat about the who/whom conundrum. It’s common to find “whom” in formal speech and writing, and “who” in informal speech and writing, but let’s take a step toward using each term correctly.

The best trick I’ve found is that when deciding between ‘who’ and ‘whom’, reword the clause using ‘he’ or ‘him’. If ‘he’ is appropriate, then ‘who’ will be the correct word; likewise, if ‘him’ fits, then ‘whom’ is correct. (Note: You can use ‘she’ and ‘her’, but by using he/him, you can key off the ‘m’ in ‘him’ and know to use ‘whom’.)

Follow these examples.

I met the writer who/whom wrote this story.
Reworded: The writer wrote this story. He wrote this story.
Correct usage: I met the writer who wrote this story.

She is the kind of person who/whom I admire.
Reworded: I admire him.
Correct usage: She is the kind of person whom I admire.

Give the gift to whoever/whomever is standing at the back door.
Reworded: He is standing at the back door.
Correct usage: Give the gift to whoever is standing at the back door.

Give the gift to whoever/whomever you find at the back door.
Reworded: You will find him at the back door.
Correct usage: Give the gift to whomever you find at the back door.

The play is about a girl who/whom wants to become an anthropologist.
Reworded: The girl wants to become an anthropologist. He wants to become an anthropologist.
Correct usage: The play is about a girl who wants to become an anthropologist.

Have you met the employee who/whom Mrs. Sniffles hired?
Reworded: Mrs. Sniffles hired him.
Correct usage: Have you met the employee whom Mrs. Sniffles hired?

The waiter who/whom you spoke to no longer works there.
Reworded: You spoke to him.
Correct usage: The waiter whom you spoke to no longer works there.

To who/whom it may concern.
Reworded: It may concern him.
Correct usage: To whom it may concern.

Who/Whom needs a ride to school?
Reworded: He needs a ride to school.
Correct usage: Who needs a ride to school?

Who/Whom did Sheila hire to replace me?
Reworded: Sheila hired him.
Correct usage: Whom did Sheila hire to replace me?

Do you know who/whom will speak at the writer’s conference?
Reworded: He will speak at the conference.
Correct usage: Do you know who will speak at the writer’s conference?

Oh my, who/whom can I trust with all this money?
Reworded: I can trust him.
Correct usage: Oh my, whom can I trust with all this money?


This month’s recommended grammar book is: Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliott, Ph.D.


I like finding ways to remember the ‘rules’ and hope you can find something helpful. It’s my hope the monthly grammar techniques and usage examples will make grammar a lot less frightening and potentially enjoyable (can you imagine?) for you.

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment or contact me!

(originally published in TWC Spotlight for August, 2008)

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