Who, whom, whose?

“He is who?” “Him is whom?” That’s right, I recently explained to a friend about how to determine which of these pronouns to use. Who is the subjective form (used as the subject of a phrase), just as he and she are the subjective forms. And whom is the objective form (used as the object of a phrase), just as him and her are the objective forms. So, to help you figure out which one is correct, you could change it to she/he or him/her, even if it doesn’t make sense for the meaning of the sentence. You might need to turn the phrase around a bit, also. And make sure you’re only considering its use in the clause it begins. It gets even trickier with questions. More on those later.

Let’s start with statements:

EXAMPLE: He is a leader who/whom everyone likes.

1. Separate the clause: who/whom everyone likes.

2. Determine how it’s being used in the clause: Everyone is the subject. Likes is the verb. He/him is the direct object, which means it should be in the objective case.

3. Substitute another form, if needed. Everyone likes him. Him = whom. Therefore, the correct choice is the objective form whom.

CORRECT: He is a leader whom everyone likes.

EXAMPLE: I think she is the one who/whom spilled the milk.

1. Separate the clause: who/whom spilled the milk.

2. Determine how it’s being used in the clause: Who/whom is the subject, which means it should be in the subjective case. Spilled is the verb. Milk is the direct object.

3. Substitute another form, if needed. She spilled the milk. She = who. Therefore, the correct choice is the subjective form who.

CORRECT: I think she is the one who spilled the milk.

Got it? OK, let’s work on questions. You can change the question to a statement to help you figure out how it’s being used in the clause or sentence.

EXAMPLE: Who/whom were you talking to?

1. Turn it into a statement: You were walking to who/whom.

2. Determine how it’s being used in the sentence: You is the subject. Were talking is the verb. Who/whom is the direct object, so it should be in the objective case.

3. Substitute another form, if needed: You were talking to him. Him=whom. Therefore, the correct form is the objective form whom.

CORRECT: Whom were you talking to?

Extra credit if you know what a predicate nominative is! It follows a to be verb form and renames the subject. It always takes the subjective case.

EXAMPLE: Who/whom is your partner?

1. Turn it into a statement: Your partner is who/whom.

2. Determine how it’s being used in the clause: Partner is the subject. Is, is the verb, a form of to be. Who/whom is the predicate nominative. It follows is and renames the subject.

3. Predicate nominatives always take the subjective form. Therefore, the correct choice is the subjective form who.

CORRECT: Who is your partner?

So, where does whose come in, you ask? It doesn’t! Not here anyway. It is a completely different form: a possessive. It is only used to show possession. Not to be confused with who’s, which is only a contraction of who is. And those, my children, are a story for another night …

Advertisements
Who, whom, whose?

2 thoughts on “Who, whom, whose?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s