You are here:

General Writing and Grammar Help/use of "whom" as object of preposition

Advertisement


Question
Dear Ted,

It’s me again.

Can you please help me to better understand the use of “whom” when used as an object of the preposition.

I am trying to determine if “whom” is still considered to be an “interrogative pronoun”.

For example, can you please tell me if “whom” is an interrogative pronoun in the following sentence:   “To whom are you writing?”  

Also, would the word “whom” - when used as an object of the preposition, always be placed at the beginning of a sentence?    

Thank you very, very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Can you please help me to better understand the use of “whom” when used as an object of the preposition.

I am trying to determine if “whom” is still considered to be an “interrogative pronoun”.

*** Here is the general "rule," to which I can think of no exceptions.  If the pronoun in question appears in an interrogative sentence AND if it has NO ANTECEDENT, then it is an "interrogative pronoun."  

However, if an antecedent for the pronoun does appear in the sentence, the pronoun is a RELATIVE PRONOUN, even if it appears in a question.  

For example, can you please tell me if “whom” is an interrogative pronoun in the following sentence:   “To whom are you writing?”  

*** Yes, it is.  There is no antecedent.  There is no word in the sentence to which "whom" relates, so it has to be an interrogative pronoun.  Don't be confused by the structure of the sentence.  A sentence can be interrogative and still have relative pronouns.  The KEY factor is whether the pronoun has an antecedent.  If it does NOT, then it cannot be a relative pronoun.

Also, would the word “whom” - when used as an object of the preposition, always be placed at the beginning of a sentence?

*** That is not a requirement.  You are giving the money to whom?  ["to whom" stands for the indirect object.  Money is the direct object.]

Frequently, people end a sentence with a preposition, and "to" is often that preposition.
Take this example:  Who are you going to vote for?  That is how the majority of people talk.  The sentence is incorrect, because the objective case "whom" must be used as the object of the preposition "for."

Famed attorney, Clarence Darrow, made a little joke with this comment:

"Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?"
(Clarence Darrow)

It sounds like perfect English up until you get to the end of the sentence and find a preposition prominently displayed!

Ted

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

Experience

I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.