Who here knows when to use “who” and when to use “whom”? For whom am I writing this post? For those of us who like a good whom now and then and know it isn’t just a fancier version of who, that’s whom.
Who and whom are both pronouns, but they are not interchangeable. “Who” is used as the subject of a sentence and “whom” is the object of a verb or preposition.
Who is the fastest runner in your class? I know who will be the last one to arrive. Who is ready for the weekend?
Whom do you love the most? I need to decide whom to invite. Whom should I talk to about getting a discount?
Maybe you can remember that and you don’t need to read any further. But some of you are more likely, as I am, to fall into the “I know one of them is the subject and one is the object, but now I can’t remember which is which” camp.
In that case, Reddit user u/AnomalousAvocado offers up a simple tip for figuring out when to who and when to whom. And since this is the trick I personally use, I can give it my Full Endorsement:
“Who/whom” is the same as “he/him.” If you use “who” in a sentence, mentally substitute “he.” If you would say “him” instead, then “whom” is the correct pronoun in that case.
A few more notes
Yes, you could also do this with she/her, it’s just that the “m” at the end of him and whom is what makes this such a good mnemonic device. You can also substitute with they/them when the pronoun is referring to a group or a person who uses nonbinary pronouns.
If you’re using who/whom in a question and get tripped up trying to replace with he/him, rephrase it as a statement. Example: For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for him.
If the sentence contains more than one clause (subject + verb), look only at the clause that contains who/whom. Example: We will give our support to the person who needs it most. (He needs it most.)
It may seem like “whom,” in general, is falling away from everyday use—especially in spoken conversation. When your kids both claim they weren’t the one who broke the window, you’d probably ask your partner, “Well, who do you believe?” Even though by now, we all know it’s “WHOM do you believe?”
But if you’re going to who and whom, you might as well do it right. Who is with me?