General Writing and Grammar Help/Who vs Whom

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QUESTION: Respected Sir Richard,

I know I am asking too many questions related to this topic. However, whenever I learn something about it, every time something new pops up about which I am not familiar with. I hope you would accept more questions on this topic, as you said that questioner can send as many questions to you as much he or she likes.

I have a few things to say about previous answer about which I am concerned. In the previous answer, you said that if the pronoun introduces a clause, as to whoever will listen, then the object of the proposition is not the pronoun but the clause.

If we refer to previous sentence that was written in the previous question, then we can note that pronoun "whom" was also introducing a separate clause.

The sentence in the question was this one:- They take their teachings from their professors whom they consider to be their role model.

In this sentence we can see that pronoun "whom" is also introducing a clause: they consider to be their role model. I don't know if I am wrong or right. But if this phrase "They consider to be their role model" is actually a clause, then it adds much more confusion to correctly use whom or who because according to your previous answer, if the pronoun introduces a clause, then the object of the preposition is not the pronoun but the clause.

Considering above aspects of this problem, I have created two different versions of that sentence in which whoever and whom is used.

A) They will take their teachings from WHOEVER they consider to be their role model.

B) They will take their teachings from WHOM they consider to be their role model.

These are two different versions of sentence. If "They consider to be their role model" is a clause then this creates confusion.

Eagerly waiting for your reply.


Thanks!!

ANSWER: Ryo, please be assured that you are not asking too many questions on this (or any) topic. My limitations concern only the contents of each question. I have no limitation on the number of questions you may ask, and I enjoy your interesting questions.

*    *    *    *

In They take their teachings from their professors whom they consider to be their role model, the only preposition is from, whose object is professors. The subordinate clause (the part of the sentence beginning with whom ) modifies professors. To is not a preposition as used in that sentence.

In your current selections, A is wrong and B is correct. Whom is the object of the verb consider in the subordinate clause.* To be correct, whoever must be whomever.

If any of the above is not clear, please ask a follow-up.

*(It is also correct that whom is the subject of the infinitive to be. Oddly, subjects of infinitives--like no other subjects--are in the objective case.)

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Richard,

Thanks for your answer. I am glad to know that you find my questions interesting!! I really appreciate that, Richard.

I have a few questions that are bothering me.

You said that "to" is not a preposition as used in that sentence. Do you mean that "to" is a preposition, but it is not relevant to the usage of who or whom in this sentence? This is because "to" is, indeed, a preposition according to English grammar rules.

My second question is about the sentences I wrote. I provided two sentences.

The main sentence in the question was this one:-

"They take their teachings from their professors whom they consider to be their role model."

You said that the sentence beginning with "whom" in the sentence is subordinate clause. This means that it is indeed a clause as I suggested.

I find various sentence on internet that contain the phrase "to whoever". I gave the example of the University of Michigan's website in which the phrase "to whoever" was used. Now consider the following two version of sentence in which both "to whoever" and "to whomever" is used.

A) They will give honor to whoever they think are their role models.
B) They will give honor to whomever they think are their role models.
C) They will give honor to whom they think are their role models.

Please note that I have changed preposition "from" and wrote "to" instead of it and I have changed the sentence also. I don't think that changing prepositions will have any impact on the sentence because both "from" and "to" are prepositions.

Richard, I don't want to make this question very lengthy. I have just included three questions in this submission, as you requested.

I shall ask a follow up after you respond to this.

Thanks.

Answer
Thanks, Ryo, for your question. I'll answer your concerns as well as I can, but in the future, if you're referring back to a selection or example in a previous question or answer, please quote the selection to which you're referring.

The word "to" is not always a preposition. It can be used also to introduce an infinitive verb. In my previous sentence, for example, "to introduce" is the infinitive (or non-inflected) form of the verb, and there is no preposition in that sentence. Note that sometimes the "to" in an infinitive can be omitted, but the complete infinitive always starts with "to."

A. Correct. The clause whoever they think are their role models is the object of the preposition to, and whoever is the subject of that clause.

B. Wrong. See above. Think does not take any object in this sentence. It is the verb of an adverbial clause (they think), that modifies the verb are.

C. Wrong. See above. Whom must be who, as it is the subject of are. (Note that even with the correction, it is an awkward and unidiomatic phrasing. Instead, use the wording of A.)  

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Richard Johnson

Expertise

I can answer any question--usually the same day--on correct English grammar, usage, and (non-fiction) writing style, based on the American practice. All answers are explained, and I encourage follow-up.

Experience

I'm a retired editor and a lifelong student of this subject. My library includes a great many works to which I've referred through the years. I currently rely largely on the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.

Publications
For over 30 years I edited the newsletter of my own organization, which had different names but was last known as NotBarter.com.

Education/Credentials
BA, Brooklyn College. Advanced studies in economics and political science.

Awards and Honors
For many years a member of Mensa.

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