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Who Vs. Whom Explained

Ever been stumped by who vs. whom? Here’s a quick trick that should help you remember whether to use who or whom: If you can swap out the word with “him” or “her,” use whom. But if you can replace the word with “he” or “she,” then you should use who

Who refers to the sentence’s subject.

Whom refers to the object of a preposition or verb. 

Is it who or whom? Most English speakers are aware that there’s a difference between these two pronouns, but they’re not quite sure what that difference is. Luckily, we’re going to explain it in this article–and you may find that the choice between who and whom is simpler than you think!

When Should Who Be Used?

When you’re writing a sentence, who acts as a subject. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Who would like to go to the store?
  • Who made these delicious cookies?

When Should Whom Be Used?

Whom acts as the object of a preposition or verb. Check out the following examples:

  • To whom was the email addressed?
  • Whom do you agree with?
  • I don’t know with whom I will go to the event. 

What Is the Difference Between Who and Whom?

So, how do you know when the pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition? Try substituting the words “he,” “she,” “him,” and “her.” Who should be used when “he” or “she” fits. Meanwhile, whom should be used if “him” or “her” fits. You might have to rearrange the sentence in order to conduct this test properly. 

Examples of Who vs. Whom

Who/whom ate the last cookie?

Let’s try substituting “she” and “her.” She ate the last cookie. Her ate the last cookie. It’s easy to see that “she” works and “her” doesn’t work, so the word you want to use here is who: Who ate the last cookie?

Let’s try another one:

Who/whom do I need to speak to regarding labeling food in the fridge?

Let’s try substituting “he” and “him.” I need to speak to he. I need to speak to him. You can see that “him” works, so whom is the correct word. Whom do I need to speak to regarding labeling food in the fridge?

Another way to know whether to choose who or whom is to use questions. Are you talking about a person who is doing something?

Gil drives his father’s car to work.

Yes, you’re speaking of a person doing something, so who should be used.

Who drives his father’s car to work?

Now take a look at this example:

The car is driven to work by Gil.

In this case, the subject of the sentence is the car. The car is not performing the action; Gil is. Therefore, use whom in your question.

The car is driven to work by whom?

By whom is the car driven to work?

You might feel that the whom examples sound a bit prissy or awkward. You’re definitely not alone–there are many people who choose not to use whom in speech or casual pieces of writing. There are other people who only use the word whom in common phrases like “To whom it may concern.” Still others never use whom at all. For example, it’s not strange at all to come across sentences like these:

Who do you agree with?

Who should I speak to regarding the food?

You can now practice your newly-found mastery of who vs. whom here!

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By Jessica Allen

Jessica is a full-time freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish.

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