School papers, Essays, Dissertations/Who/Whoever & Whom/Whomever



The topic of pronouns such as who/whoever and whom/whomever is extremely tricky one and many writers struggle a lot with the correct usage of these two pronouns in their essays and papers.

I have read some information about them, but I don't know if I can correctly figure out which is the correct one. Various sources say that him=whom and he=who trick should be used to figure out which one is correct. Moreover, object and subject rule should also be kept in mind.

Subordinate clause also plays a great role in selecting the correct form of pronoun.

Ok, let's take some examples:-

1) You can select any candidate who/whom you think is fit for the job.

"You think HE is fit for the job" So who is correct.

2) If I had known who/whom that was, I would have spoken to him.

"If I had known that was HIM, I would have spoken to him." So whom is the correct choice here.

3) Jason was the person about who/whom we said was sitting at the back row.

"We said HE was sitting at the back row." So who is correct.

4) Ralph is the person whom/who he says can win the match for us.

"He says HE can win the match for us." So who must be the correct choice here.

5) Jerry criticize Terry whom/who he says uses bad language in the class.

"He says HE uses bad language in the class." So who is correct.

6) He guides whom/who/whomever/whoever he wills.

"He wills" is the subordinate clause here. Subordinate clause says, "He wills". Since subordinate clause starts with "He" and contains verb, then "whoever" is the correct choice here, I believe.

I don't know if my sentence choices are correct or not, but I believe they are correct for the reasons I mentioned.

I am awaiting your answer.



Who/whom is one of the features of the language that a great many people get wrong. Plus, preferences in ambiguous situations may very well be changing. In many instances, even if you get it wrong considering the formal rules, no one will be bothered by it, or perhaps even notice. And, in some cases if you choose "whom" correctly, it will sound a bit pedantic to many native speakers. All that said, let's take them in order.

1. WHO is correct. But I think its better to say, "You can select any candidate you think is fit for the job."

2. This is a little strange. I don't think you can use the "him=whom" rule here. The structure of the sentences you're comparing is a bit different. Also, I think any native speaker would think "whom" really strange in that sentence. I'd go with "who."

3. Correct.

4. Correct.

5. Correct. (note that the verb should be "criticizes".

6. I thing "whomever" is the choice here because I think it is the object. But again, I doubt if most native speakers would be upset with the other choice.

Hope this helps.

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


Thanks for your very swift reply.

I would like to know that why can't we use he=who and him=whom rule in the second sentence when the fact is that the place of "him" makes perfect sense in that sentence.

"If I had known him, I would have spoken to him."

But why can't we apply the rule in this one when it is applies in all the sentences?

Moreover, I did a little google search on the internet about "whoever he wills" and I found English translators of Quran have translated several verses as "God guides whomever he wills."

I think the rule of subject and object supersedes the rule of he=who and him=whom.

Hi Ryo,

Sorry if I didn't explain it adequately. Your two sentences in which you compared the he/him - who/whom in number 2 are not really alike.

If I had known who/whom that was, I would have spoken to him.

"If I had known that was HIM, I would have spoken to him." So whom is the correct choice here.

A better comparison would be, "If I had known who he was, I would have spoken to him."

The "If I had known that was him" phrase is a different construction.

Now, one think I should warn you about is that I am not really a grammarian. I'm a good writer and editor, but my skills come mostly from practicing, which I do every day to make my living, and from reading a lot. They don't come from having memorized the rules of grammar. So when we need a rule, I'm likely to refer you to one of the excellent online sources such as the Purdue University site.

If you really want to know both rules and best practices in English, I recommend Brian Garner's "Modern English Usage" in its most recent edition. It's a bit expensive (around $35.00) from Amazon, but very useful. The edition I have (which I will now replace) is titled "Modern American Usage" and was published in 2009. According to the reviews on Amazon of the 2016 edition, it is significantly expanded and internationalized. Garner is not only a superb lexicographer, he is a witty writer. It's fun just to pull it off the shelf and read a couple of entries now and then. I'm not suggesting this to keep you from asking me questions. I'll always welcome them. But that'a very good, and fun, reference.

Hope this helps.

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Dan Smith


I have been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years, taught speech and English composition at the university level, and have developed speech and English composition courses and seminars for businesses. I am experienced in editing a wide variety of materials, especially business, scientific, and other academic papers. I am familiar with all the major style guides.


I have edited any number of graduate papers and other technical materials in such advanced fields as civil and electrical engineering and semiconductor fabrication. I have extensive experience in working with non-native English speakers.

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