Grammar Quiz #18: Who vs. Whom

By Mark Nichol

In standard English who is used as a subject or a predicate nominative. Whom is used as an object (direct, indirect, object of preposition, etc.). Compounds, such as whoever and whomever, follow these same rules. Choose the correct form to fill the blank in each sentence.

1. ______ did you choose to serve on your committee?

a) Who
b) Whom

2. Give the found money to ______ needs it.

a) whomever
b) whoever

3. The new department head ______ we met yesterday has already resigned.

a) whom
b) who

4. That man in the ball cap is, I believe, the one ______ took my purse.

a) whom
b) who

5. Anyone ______ has has paid his dues may vote in the club’s election.

a) who
b) whom

Answers and Explanations

1. Whom did you choose to serve on your committee?
b) Whom

You is the subject of the verb did choose. Whom is the direct object of the verb.

2. Give the found money to whoever needs it.
b) whoever

This is a bit tricky because whoever follows the preposition to. However, the whole subordinate clause whoever needs it is the object of the preposition to; thus whoever becomes the subject in that clause.

3. The new department head whom we met yesterday has already resigned.
a) whom

Whom is the direct object of the verb met in the subordinate clause, whom we met.

4. That man in the ball cap is, I believe, the one who took my purse.
b) who

Who is the subject of the subordinate clause, who took my purse.

5. Anyone who has has paid his dues may vote in the club’s election.
a) who

Who is the subject of the subordinate clause, who has paid his dues.


6 Responses to “Grammar Quiz #18: Who vs. Whom”

  • D.A.W.

    Valeria Golina was the lead actress in “Rain Man”, and she played the girlfriend of Ray Babbitt – played by Tom Cruise. Then in the future, Ms. Golina played the lover of the heroic character in “Hot Shots”. This was quite appropriate because “Hot Shots” was a direct spoof of “Top Gun” – one of Mr. Cruise’s huge successes.

  • D.A.W.

    “Who’s on first?”
    Abbot and Costello at their most brilliant! This was repeated, including in an old film clip, in the brilliant motion picture “Rain Man”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rain_Man
    This one won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Writing – Original Screenplay.

  • venqax

    OK. We’ll go with axing whom.

  • TheBluebird11

    Oh venqax, language is trending toward simplification, not complication! If anything, people are trying to get rid of whom and just use who all the time because most people do that already. Let’s not add to the burden!

  • venqax

    This is one of the most difficult things in English, IMO, and even a language reactionary like me finds it unnecessary, really. We make no distinction for What and That, and it’s just fine. Of course, if we want to travel this road, I have elsewhere suggested What/wham and that/tham just to balance things out.

    1. Wham did you choose to serve for dinner?

    You is the subject of the verb did choose. Wham is the direct object of the verb.

    2. Give the found money to whatever group needs it.

    This is a bit tricky because whatever follows the preposition to. However, the whole subordinate clause whatever needs it is the object of the preposition to; thus whatever becomes the subject in that clause.

    3. The new department logo tham we saw yesterday has already been re-designed
    .
    Tham is the direct object of the verb met in the subordinate clause, tham we saw.

    Whuddaya think? We will do whamever you recommend.

  • TheBluebird11

    I am very grateful to be a native English speaker because otherwise I’d be totally lost. As I have said here before, I cannot parse a sentence, and I can never tell anything about subjects and objects and all that stuff. The only way that I remember when to use who and when to use whom is my own mnemonic. I can’t guarantee that it’s 100% correct, although it seems to be. If I can substitute the word “him” (which ends with an M), then I use whom (which also ends with an M). If I can substitute “he,” then I use who.
    So in examples #1and #3 above, I can substitute and say “We chose HIM” and “We met HIM.” Therefore, I know that I need to use the word whom.
    In examples #2, #4 and #5, I would substitute and say “HE needs the money,” “HE took my purse,” and “HE paid his dues.” Therefore, I would use the word who. Mark, is this method valid (by which I mean, is it dependable 100% of the time) to determine which word to use?

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