How to use “whom”

Writing Tutorial

How to use "whom"

Intro

Generally, students have a lot of diffuculty understanding how to use “whom” instead of “who” when appropriate. This can lead to the writing sounding awkward if “whom” is unused, or even worse when used incorrectly.

“Who is coming over?”

“For whom the bell tolls.”

Each of these above sentences uses “who” and “whom” correctly.

Sample Problem

“Whom is it?”

“Who is it?”

“Whom is there?”

Which of the above sentences is correct?

“Whom is there?”


“Whom is it?”


“Who is it?”


Solution

When deciding whether or not “whom” or “who” is the proper pronoun, it is actually quite simple. The rule of thumb is that if you can replace the word with “he”’ or “’she” and it is still a proper sentence, use who. If you can replace it with “him” or “her” and the sentence is correct, use whom.

Take “Who is coming over?” If we replace “Who” with “He” we have “He is coming over,” which is a correct sentence. However, if we replace “Who” with “Him” we have “Him is coming over,” which is an incorrect sentence.

Now take “For whom the bell tolls.” If we replace “Whom” with “him” the sentence is correct. “For him the bell tolls.” On the contrary, if we replace “whom” with “he” the setence becomes incorrect. “For he the bell tolls.”

So, for our initial problem, we can see that “Who is it?” is the correct option, because when replaced we have “He is it.” If replace with “him” we have “Him is it,” an incorrect sentence. Also, “Whom is there?” becomes “Him is there,” an incorrect sentence.



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