Who vs. Whom

Posted: February 17th, 2014, 2:19 pm   By: brittany.corners

“I am treating you the same as a man, for whom I would also not stand . . . unless it was the president or Judge Judy.”—Dwight K. Schrute, explaining his stance on gender equality to his female boss

Perhaps nothing confuses more writers than deciding when to use who or whom. For some, it’s harder than choosing between watching Two and a Half Men or being locked naked in a porta-potty with a rabid nutria. Cautious scribes may opt to avoid whom while their braver brethren unintentionally abuse it. This week, we’ll solve this pronoun problem once and for all.

Who = Subject

Use who when referring to the subject of a sentence or clause—when you’re talking about the someone doing something.

Example: People who care about the Chick-fil-A controversy should really concentrate on the fact that fast food is worse for you than eating Soylent Green.

  • Reason: “people” is the subject.

Example: I refuse to root for the swimming simpleton Ryan Lochte, who is actually a tremendous, titanic tool.

  • Reason: “who” starts the relative clause and acts as the subject.

Whom = Object

In contrast, use whom when referring to the object of a verb or preposition in a sentence or clause. When you’re talking about something happening to someone, that person is the object.

Example: You can bet your rat tail that AC/DC has no clue “Who Made Who” stands as one of rock’s great grammatical gaffes.

  • Reason: it should be “Who Made Whom,” because the second pronoun is the object.

Example: The Turtleman, whom many dismiss as a hayseed homunculus, actually embodies the important connection between man and nature.

  • Reason: In the relative clause, “many” acts as the subject dismissing the object.

A Tip to Tell the Difference

Figure out whether you would use he or him as the pronoun in the same place in your sentence: if you’d use he, go with who—and if you’d use him, stick with whom.