Who Has A Problem With Whom?

Who Has A Problem With Whom?
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Who has a problem with the word “whom”? For whom should we devote grammar lessons? Who talks ill of the English language? Whom should we throw in jail?

Wise Owl picture by Shutterstock

With this funny little grammar problem, the answer is in the question.

Ask yourself, who is the subject of your sentence? For whom is all this attention?

If the answer of your question is “he” or “she”, then “who” is the appropriate word. If the answer is “him” or “her”, then “whom” is what you should use.

I say “should use” lightly, because not many people will care. As the Oatmeal points out, it doesn’t really add any utility to the English language, but even in the absence of raw practicality, there are cultural aspects to language. It’s also the type of thing that once you know, you can’t stop noticing when people do it wrong.

Who broke that clock? She did. For whom are we buying a new clock? For him, because he doesn’t break clocks. I’ll tell you who is great, though. She is. Because if you considered whom she could hold a grudge against, yet didn’t, it’d be him.

Be careful, though — when it comes to correcting people at parties, this one usually falls into the “notice the mistake but don’t correct them” category.

Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.

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