General Writing and Grammar Help/Who or Whom (Part 1)
QUESTION: Hi Johnathan,
How are you? I hope you are fine. Pronouns "Who" and "Whom" can create a lot of difficulties for writers and speakers. Correctly using both of them is a very tricky aspect of English language.
I am having a difficult time selecting who or whom in sentences.
For instance, see these examples:-
1) Who/Whom are you, anyways?
2) I will give my heart to whoever/whomever I want.
3) Whom/Who should I call for assistance?
I am eagerly waiting for your answer.
ANSWER: Hi Ryo,
I am well, thank you.
This is a tricky thing even for native speakers to figure out. However, there is a handy trick:
Who should be used to refer to the SUBJECT of a sentence.
Whom should be used to refer to the OBJECT of a sentence.
When in doubt, try this simple trick: If you can replace the word with ‘he’ or ‘she,’ use who.
If you can replace it with ‘him’ or ‘her,’ use whom.
Here are two examples:
Who ate my sandwich? (Did he eat my sandwich? Did she eat my sandwich?)
Whom should I talk to about labeling food in the refrigerator? (Should I talk to him? Should I talk to her?)
In your first example, it's obviously the subject, so that would be:
"Who are you, anyways?"
In #2, "I" is the Subject, so it would be whom:
"I will give my heart to whomever I want."
And #3 "I" is again the subject, so whom should be correct:
"Whom should I call for assistance?" (This can be restructured as: "Should I call him for assistance?"... this providing guidance from the simple rule above.)
I hope this helps.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Johnathan,
Thanks for your so kind answer. I really appreciate your swift reply.
Ok, so I have some concerns about this subject.
My first example was this one:-
"Who/Whom are you, anyways?"
I was reading an article and the article says that writing "Whom are you, anyways?" is correct.
The article says,
"Take the common expression, "Whom are you, anyways?" That is of course, strictly speaking, correct - and yet how formal, how stilted! The usage to be preferred in ordinary speech and writing is "Who are you, anyways?"
Here is the source of the article:- http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~heycock/thurber-who.html
Secondly, apart from that. Can we write the sentence like this:- "Do you think you are him" If the sentence "Do you think you are him" is correct, then what is the problem writing the sentence "Whom do you think you are?"
According to him= whom and who= he rule, this sounds perfect.
See this example:- "Do you think you are HIM?"= "Whom (him) do you think you are?
The third sentence was this one:-
"Whom should I call for assistance"
Actually, there are two Native English American websites that say something very opposite to each other.
Here is the sentence taken from University of Utah's official website. The sentence reads as "Who should I call for assistance"
However, another American website OPM.gov writes the sentence as "Whom should I contact for advice and assistance?"
One American website says, "Whom should I contact for advice and assistance?"
whereas the other American website says, "Who should I contact for assistance?"
Of course one of them is wrong.
I hope you would clarify.
Yes, indeed, this one can be quite perplexing.
Many sources indicate that "who" is correct because of the presence of "are", which in this case serves as a linking verb. Other sources refute this one and say that "officially", whom would be the correct word for your first example. However, even if those sources are to be believed, unofficially, not one person I have ever met says that. It's always "who are you?". It's that way in our literature, and in our media, and everywhere you look. However, it is worth noting that if you add something else to the sentence, then Whom becomes more natural to use whom. For example:
Whom are you calling?
Whom are you writing?
With whom are you staying?
But, taken by itself as a purely interrogative statement about identity, then no one will ever use "whom", regardless of how correct it may be.
With regards to the conflicting information, the government website (www.opm.gov) is correct. Whom should I contact for assistance. The institutional Review board at the University of Utah is using informal (improper) grammar on their site because it is what most people will relate to.
I hope this helps.