To whom it may concern:
Over the past 200 years written use of the pronoun whom has declined by half, and half again over the last 50. It makes sense. In the colloquial world of email and texting, thinking about the correct usage of whom can just slow writers down. The word can make sentences sound more formal, but if used incorrectly whom makes a speaker sound insincere when they’re trying to sound smart. So, why not delete whom from the dictionary entirely? Because for all its flaws, whom might still have something to say.
(What words might be removed from the dictionary? Find out here.)
Let’s start with the correct usage. Whom is a pronoun that refers to a person not present in the conversation. Technically, ‘whom’ is the objective-case pronoun of the subjective-case pronoun ‘who,’ where ’whom’ refers to the object of a sentence and ‘who’ refers to the subject. It’s the difference between the accusative form, ‘whom’ and the nominative form, ‘who.’
So, you’re at a party and you run into someone you think you recognize, you say “Hello, who are you again?” this is perfectly correct. If the person is right in front of you, they are ‘who’ because you are speaking with them directly. Whom comes into the conversation when you realize that the person you’re talking to didn’t come to the party alone. “Oh, I see you’re holding four hats there. With whom did you come?” or you might say, “Hey, you had to be invited to this party. Of whom are you a guest?” (You could say “whom are you the guest of?” but that would be ending the sentence with a preposition and that’s a whole different blog post).
In this way, whom can be about mystery. The person/people about whom you’re asking are far off, and their representative pronoun adds a layer of distance.
In the case of unknown identities, this aspect of whom can turn a business letter into a detective story. “To whom it may concern” (the standard salutation that replaces ‘Dear,’ at the beginning of formal letters) could be addressing anyone: the CEO of a company or the hotdog vendor that found the letter on the street. In other words, whom makes space for writers and speakers to address that which is absent or unknown, a sort of grammatical spyglass through which to imagine the hidden figure just around the corner.
Do you think whom is worth keeping? Tell us what you think.
I think it should be kept. Just because people are getting sloppy with their grammar is no reason to do away with a word. If they want to sabotage themselves by not growing their vocabularies and using slang and computer lingo, then so be it. But the rest of us like our words, and we find beauty in them.
I’m pretty sure the difference between “who” and “whom” has to do with subject versus object. The explanation of mystery doesn’t hold water. For example, if you don’t know the identity of someone standing on the other side of the room, you still say “Who is that?” rather than “Whom is that?”. Their identity is still a mystery, but you do not use “whom”.
“Whom” must be used if the mystery person in question is the object (DO) of the verb you’re using or the object of a preposition (OP) attached to the verb.
1. “I came with X” (OP) –> “With whom did you come?”
2. “I am a guest of X” (OP) –> “Of whom are you a guest?” — although this one should just be “Whose guest are you?”
3. “It concerns X” (DO) –> “Whom does it concern?”
4. “He likes X” (DO) –> “Whom does he like?”)
And “who” is used if the mystery person is used as the subject of the verb. “He likes dogs” –> “Who likes dogs?”, or “He is a guest.” –> “Who is a guest?”
The difference between “who” and “whom” is clear and easy enough to understand, but I have to admit it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference in comprehension if you mistakenly use one or the other. It only makes the grammar police angry.
i think i’m the first commenter! just to let ya’ll know i love ENGLISH!!
I definitely think the word whom should be kept.
What better way to identify those whom you don’t know.
Whom will never die. Rob has spoken.
Yes, i think word ‘whom’ should be left. After all I use it whenever possible as it’s quite applicable in my work environment.
I am not sure if this explanation of “whom” is correct. In my view, whom is the dative and accusative of who corresponding to “Wem” and “Wen” in German. It is a remnant of the old english declension system (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declension). best Axel
I’ve been trying to use “whom” correctly for years, solely based on that scene in “The Office” (American version) where it becomes the topic of discussion and nobody seems to know how to use it. Finally, Pam offers up something like, “Whom is used when the person being referred to is the subject.”
Dictionary.com, care to expand your article?
As I learned from the closing of a graduation speech delivered by Diane Sawyer, it’s really not to hard to remember. She told the graduating class: Just remember when you go out into the big, wide world…it’s not who you know, but whom you know.
To whom am I leaving this comment to….whom ?
As much as I support the spirit of this article, it seems to be trying to condense the use of whom to one particular scenario and avoids the larger picture of how “whom” fits (or used to fit) into our language as the objective 2nd person pronoun.
For example: “That’s John, he is the man with whom I came to this party”. No mystery there..?
I’m sorry, but this article does not explain the difference between “who” and “whom” and therefore its ‘correct’ usage. It has nothing to do “not knowing the identity of the person about whom you’re asking”, this is a general feature or interrogatives and the semantic distinction proposed here simply depends on context. Consider this example:
“Who left their wallet here?”
You obviously don’t know the identity of the person in question (otherwise why would you be asking?) and yet using ‘whom’ in this case is simply ungrammatical:
*”Whom left their wallet here?”
The distinction between who and whom goes back to English’s much depleted case-marking system. In English, the case system has been vastly reduced but still exists as a relict in the pronoun system:
Nominative (subject) case: He came into the room
‘Accusative/Dative’ (object) case: I saw him
Genitive case: Those are his shoes.
(And: “I, me, my” – “she, her, her”)
The simple fact is that ‘who’ also shows case:
Nom: Who came to the party ?
Acc: Who(m) did you speak to last night?
Gen: Whose shoes are these?
The fact is that the broad subject/object distinction for ‘who’ has been declining for some time (a perfectly normal development), but the basic distinction remains the same. So saying something like:
“Whom is the smartest person in the room?”
is equivalent to answering:
“Him is the most important person in the room”
There is a mismatch between the subject (who) and the object case.
“To whom did you talk last night?”
“To him/*to he”
Hopefully, this will clear things up.
I’m afraid you don’t seem to understand the use of who/whom correctly at all. Who is the subject and whom is the object, and their usage follows the use, for example, of “I” and “me”. It is purely a grammatical construction and has nothing to do with the “unknown”.
I also can’t make sense of your reference to Spanish. Nosostros means “we” or “us” and vosotros means “you” (in the plural). I don’t see the relevance there. The subjunctive also has nothing to do with pronouns, and is a “mood” in which verbs can be conjugated.
That said, you have managed to use who and whom correctly in all your examples:
“Hello, who are you again?” Although the word “who” is being used as the object here, it is used with a linking verb (to be) and so the subject form is correct.
“With whom did you come?” The word “whom” here follows the preposition “with” and so the object form is always used.
“Of whom are you a guest?” This time the preposition “of” mandates the object form.
“To whom it may concern” Again a preposition, this time “to”.
To whom it may concern, my opinion is thus:
Verily; it is dying and it is worth saving.
definitely!!! I say use whom regularly. I don’t believe that any word should be removed from the dictionary, because someone will always use it.
Whom has nothing to do with being a mystery, just with being an object. I know who Bob is. Bob is my friend. Bob is also the one to whom I gave my car. I know who you are. You are the one who wrote this article. You are also the one to whom I am writing this note.
YES, most definately…..Whom is a proper promoun because of the unknown .
Whom has nothing to do with proximity or knowledge of the person, although such contextual information may play into the word’s likely role in sentences.
“Whom” is “who” in the oblique case, a conglomeration of the dative, absolute, and genitive (with prepositions) cases. “Who are you again” is correct because linking verbs take the same nominative case. But “Whom did you bring” or “With whom did you come” have “whom” as the object of a transitive verb and of a preposition, respectively.
By way of analogy, “who” is used wherever “I” would be used in a sentence, whereas “whom” is used wherever “me” would be used. who : I :: whom : me
yes , I think whom is worth keeping , because I don’t know any other expression to replace it , if you know please tell me ,
Of course ‘whom’ should remain in the English lexicon. English speakers who do understand subjective v. objective cases know when and how to use whom. I use it all the time. I also use ‘big words,’ which people complain of since they don’t know the meaning so instead of ask what the words mean, I shouldn’t use words people don’t “get.” It’s the same with whom, if it’s not common or the rules are too hard, blame the speaker of being a snob and continue in ignorance. (The same problem exists with I v. me: me used at beginning of sentences preceding the other subject, “Me and Ben went . . .” But if you help by stating that
it’s “Ben and I” people get pissed, or vice versa ending a sentence with ‘I’ when it should be me.” Forget using whom, let get people to use ‘I’ and ‘me’ correctly — before that whomsoever will always struggle with using whom. Word up!!
I think that “whom” is absolutely needed.
For those who know what a “subject” and an “object” of a verb or a preposition are: Use “whom” when it is the “object”. (That same rule applies to many other Indo-European languages).
To me, someone who does not use “whom” sounds careless, or ignorant of the proper usage of English.
Interesting analysis. But whom is the objective case of the word “who.” To whom – object of the preposition “to.” With whom did you come – object of “with.” Of whom – object of “of.”
Nosotros is the first person plural subject pronoun (“we”). Vosotros is the second person plural subject pronoun (“you”, “ya’ll”).
Subjunctive is a verb mood; it applies to verbs, not pronouns.
The word “whom” should be kept and grammar should be taught and upheld in every subject. It is sadly thought of as floccinaucinihilipilification to some people.
This explanation is incorrect. Whom is an object pronoun, as opposed to a subject pronoun. Simple.
Great article! I think that whom is worth keeping. In my country (Trinidad and Tobago) it is still used among some. Another thing, in the example you used, …(You could say “whom are you the guest of?”, maybe this can be read as, “Of whom are you a guest?”
“Whom” is not only not dead, it’s not rare either. I use “whom” ALL THE TIME and so do many people whom I know. (See what I did there?) The way you describe “whom” here, whilst accurate, tells only half the story. Basically, “whom” is the form of “who” used when it is the object of a verb, “The man whom I saw yesterday” – albeit this usage is becoming much less common – or of a preposition, “The man to whom I was talking yesterday”. And whilst whom certainly CAN refer “to a person whose identity is unknown”, it can just as easily refer to a person whose identity IS known: “Tommy, to whom I was talking yesterday”.
Oh my goodness.
I can’t believe you’ve published this article without actually understanding the distinction between who and whom.
“Whom” is simply a correct inflection of “who” and has absolutely nothing to do with whether the person is known or not, and everything to do with whether the pronoun is subject or object of the sentence; although it is commonly omitted for direct objects, it’s almost invariably used in conjunction with prepositions and indirect objects.
“Whom” certainly is dead if its survival is dependent on people like you!
It should be used in this sentence only: Whom are you speaking toom?
Whom gives a @#$%? In any kind of conversation, people would rear up and ask “whom speaketh thusly?” if you dropped “whom” into a sentence. Disappearing like blacksmiths, a lot of words are no longer used and therefore no longer understood by the listener. When was the last time you heard “amongst” or “whither”.
It’s sad that Old English words are dying, we should keep whom on board. I think that’s like been around for centuries. We keep it going, We should try to do a whom revival or something.
To whom it may concern:
“Whom” is the form of the relative pronoun “who”, when “who” has assumed the position of the direct object or indirect object in a sentence.
It has nothing to do with whether you know the identity of the person to whom you are referring!
e.g. Jane is the beautiful woman with whom I have had a loving relationship for over ten years.
e.g. Mr J Smith, to whom your letter was addressed, no longer works for this company.
e.g. The homemade cakes were not eaten by Jane, for whom they were intended.
I definitely do think the word “whom” is worth keeping. “Whom” is a word without which I cannot write intelligibly, whether or not I know who will read what I write.
Who vets these blog posts? That is the person (or committee) with whom I would like to communicate!
Every case in your article follows the 2 basic rules of “whom”:
a: the object of a preposition uses “whom” (“to whom”, “with whom”, “about whom” & “of whom” in your article are all “whom” because of the preposition, not because they are unknown)
b: the verb “to be” always takes the subjective case (who) and never the objective case (whom), whether known or unknown.
test case: “Who are you & who is the man in the mask who just came in?” is correct, but by your rules the unknown second man in the mask would/should be referred to as “whom.”
“Who are you” is correct because “are” is a form of “to be”. Thus when the Lone Ranger comes into the room, no one knows who he is (verb “to be”) because his identity is unknown. But someone will ask “Who is that man in the mask? (verb “to be” even in an unknown gets “who”, not “whom”)
I have never heard of your rule of known
Wait a second, this explanation is completely wrong! The criterion is not whether something is known to you or not; it is purely a question of grammatical use: ‘who’ is a subject, ‘whom’ is an object. It’s as simply as that. Your examples even support this: “who are you again?” Subject! “With whom did you come?” Object (of the preposition ‘with’)! ‘Whom’ can’t be used as a subject, even if its placement can be deceptive (in ‘Whom did you see at the party?’, ‘whom’ is still an object! ‘You’ is the subject).
Second point: “Over the past 200 years written use of the pronoun whom has declined by half, and half again over the last 50. It makes sense. In the colloquial world of email and texting, thinking about the correct usage of whom can just slow writers down.” What? When did we start emailing and texting? This trend clearly precedes the digital age!
The baby was nurtured from cradle to whom?
Whom am I trying to kid ?
Of course it is worth keeping. Its correct use should be taught widely with suitable examples as given above.
Perhaps authors of English books for teaching foreigners should keep this in mind and reserve emphatically a special place for this word.
This is a very misleading article. It seems to be implying that ‘who’ should be used when referring to a known person and ‘whom’ to an unknown one (as though the example on the front page, ‘whom is dying’ is correct. In fact ‘who’ is used when referring to the subject of a sentence, and ‘whom’ when referring to its object.
I’ve always considered “who” a subject and “whom” an object.
That said, I’m more likely to say “Who did you come with?” than “With whom did you come?” or “Whom did you come with?” simply because it sounds better even though it’s technically incorrect (you = subject, did come = verb, who(m) = object).
And if scolded for ending a sentence with a preposition I’d be tempted to respond “OK, then – whom did you come with, bitch?” (to paraphrase Annie Potts as Mary Jo on “Designing Women”!)
I’m sorry, but if your idea of the use of “whom” has to do with its including mystery or uncertainty, you are seriously misinformed. “Whom” is simply the objective case for the word “who”. “With whom” is used because it is preceded by a preposition (just as you’d say “with me” instead of “with I”). Same thing with “to whom”. You would also use “whom” in a situation like “the man whom I saw yesterday” because YOU were the one doing the seeing, and the man is the object. If you said “the man who saw me” that would mean that the man was doing the seeing and YOU were the object.
I have a dog rescue magnet on my car that drives me crazy because it says: “Who Rescued Who?” Even my children who are NorthWestern University graduates didn’t realize that it should say “Who rescued Whom?”
Without “whom”, with whom could I communicate?
In “Of whom are you a guest?” the quandary is whether the case of the pronoun is determined by the preposition “of’” or the verb “are” which is a linking verb that demands the case following match the case preceding. Rearrange the interrogative into a declaration: You are a guest of who(m), and you see that “whom” as an object of the preposition “of” must be in the objective, not nominative case. Whom and its kith and kin honor precision in language use. Their loss impoverishes the language.
Yup. I just think it sounds cool.
I love your article. Whom was drilled into me during my 8th Grade English class. The usage has stuck with me for the past 30 years. Good to see it found a way to rise again. Keep the great articles coming.
“Whom” is most definitely worth keeping. As a Quality Assurance professional, part of my job is making sure things are worded correctly (hence my happening upon this post), and I’ve passively insisted on the proper use of “whom” over and over at work. Its to the point where the developers trust me more than their own writing. And to borrow from Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing.
This was super nice and I’m glad I read it.
I’m sorry, but if you think that the use of “whom” is dictated by a sense of mystery, you are seriously misinformed. “Whom” is simply the objective form of “who” which you use when the unknown person is having an action performed upon them rather than performing it themselves. “The man whom I saw” would be correct because the man is being seen by someone else and is not doing the seeing himself. “To whom” or “of whom” is correct not because of mystery but because “who” is the object of a preposition. This is the same thing as saying “with me” instead of “with I”. The case changes to clarify the meaning.
Since English is a language which doesn’t show many case distinctions, native English speakers are often sketchy about this topic. I had similar trouble when a kid, and it helped to learn other languages which DID make those kinds of distinctions. In any case, the difference between cases has absolutely nothing to do with a desire to seem mysterious.
Hmm… sorry about the repeated entry. When a friend came to the page to read my comment, he said it wasn’t there; and when I came to check, it did not appear for me either. Now it’s showing up twice. Headscratch.
Great information. Very helpful to me.
Yes, it’s a keeper.
WoW!!! I never knew this. This is such a valuble information to know about and cool too!
So far I have never even wondered about this. The difference is huge.
Nice learning I would say. Thanks for this post.
I don’t think this is correct, or at least, I’ve never heard this explanation about whether the person is known or unknown. I’ve always learned that “who” is a subject pronoun and “whom” is an object pronoun.
This is absolute baloney. Does the writer have a single clue about the difference between whom and who? “Whom” is the object of a preposition and not the subject of a sentence. This article is complete and utter nonsense and should be fired immediately.
Wow. It’s too early. The writer should be fired, not the article. Looks like I should have proofread.
‘Whom’ is a pronoun that is used to refer to a person in object position.
She loves daddy
While ‘She’ is the subject, ‘daddy’ is the object
‘Whom’ refers to the object:
Whom does she love?
Who loves daddy?
After every preposition, ‘whom’ is the only correct choice
… in whom i am well pleased
Before I comment on this I need to know to whom I am speaking. But, seriously, whom definitely is worth keeping. Just this morning I wrote a letter of recommendation addressed “To Whom It May Concern.” Whom is an invaluable word, despite its infrequent use. I seldom refer to someone as incorrigible, but I would not want to lose the word because sometime I assuredly will need it.
My father was an English teacher in the 50’s and came up with this mnemonic device, to the tune of “Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-de-ay:”
“I we they he she who;
Me us them him her whom.”
If you would say “him,” you would say “whom.”
The problem, of course, is that folks are so ignorant now, they no longer know to say, “it is I,” so they then err and say, “whom shall I say is calling.” Abandon all hope!
Not knowing whether to say “I” or “me,” people frequently say the reflexive “myself,” which is almost ALWAYS wrong!
I don’t know if I’ve misunderstood what you’re trying to say, but “whom” is nothing to do with whether the person is known or unknown. “Whom” is to “who” as “him” is to “he” (and “me” is to “I”, “her” is to “she”, “us” is to “we”). It’s the object form. You can perfectly well use it for people whose identity you know: “The letter was from my father, to whom I had recently sent a parcel”.
I like the mysterious approach of the word “whom”. I think that is the beauty of the English language and language in general. The intonations you can give to words and dialogue. I think “whom” is 100% a keeper!
YESSSSSSSSSSS! Keep it.
Keep it! Our country is producing an excessive amount of slang terms making us sound quite uneducated. Like most words, “whom” has it’s rightful place in our vocabulary. Why delete and lower our standards? One would hope that people would aspire to sound intelligible and desire to be intelligent.
I have always thought of whom as the version of who, but used in the “accusative case”, e.g., as the object of a verb or a pronoun.
All the examples of the use of “whom” in the above post are one or the other.
With whom did you come? Of whom are you a guest? To whom it may concern… [Object of a pronoun]
Other examples: Whom do you want as your dance partner? [Object of a verb, the answer to which could be: Him or Her, rather than He or She.]
I believe that ”Whom” should be kept in use and it, along with the rest of the subject of grammar, should be vigorously taught in our schools. Having read articles written recently by school leavers, I am often appalled at the almost non existence of punctuation and correct spelling. It concerns me greatly to see the plummeting decline of the quality of both spoken and written English.
I still use “whom” often. I am glad to have been educated by a good English school. I guess the people who do not use it probably don’t know how.
Yes, keep it! I don’t want our language to be “dumbed” down more than what it already is.
Absolutely! It is imperative that we know when it is appropriate to use ‘whom’ so that we sound intelligent when we speak because we don’t want to sound dumb.
I’ve never posted anything here, but I feel compelled to now– this post is simply incorrect. I’m not going to expound on the differences between who and whom, but it has little to do with mystery and everything to do with grammar. Please, if you would like to better inform yourself, do look up the difference in a more reliable source, and then use the correct form. Oh, and “To Whom it May Concern” as a greeting could almost certainly never confuse a CEO with a vendor in the street as I think there are few letters addressed to one that would concern the other. Is it me or is this site becoming a little more sloppy and a little less dependable? Pity.
I thought “whom” was just the objective case of “who.” Read every instance of the word “whom” in the article above, and you will see this. The difference between “who” and “whom” is the same as the difference between “he” and “him”. You ask, “With whom did you come?” I could answer, “I came with him.” If you had asked, “With WHO did you come?”, then perhaps I could answer, “I came with HE.” My grammatical correctness would be identical to yours, since the pronoun who/whom (in your question) and the pronoun he/him (in my response) are both used as the object of the preposition “with,” and should be used in the objective case.
I thought “whom” was the object of the sentence while “who” was the subject?
Whoever wrote the explanation about the proper use of “whom” really missed the mark. It doesn’t have anything to do with being known or unknown. Any pronoun, when it becomes the object of a preposition,is changed to suit. Example: Whoever approved the above explanation of the use of “Whom” should be more careful about whom he allows to blog.
Thank you for the post. It was an excellent explanation of a pronoun that I know I have misused before. As to keep it or not, I like using it from time to time, but I wonder whether it will be around 50 years from now?
Keep it? Absolutely! There are far too many good words falling by the wayside of our text induced laziness. We are in danger of losing what little poetry is left in our short-sighted short hand. Soon we’ll all think and speak in binary code and to hell with Willy and Shelly and the crew we all once loved and knew.
I was taught that “whom” should always be used after a preposition instead of “who”. In this article, the author has used “whom” correctly, although this very important rule was not even mentioned.
I do think it is worth keeping. But I don’t think we should be judgemental of those that choose not to use it. I like words that enhance the sound or cadence of our language. I think whom adds some beauty to English. I miss thee and thou.
Are you serious? “Who” is a subjective-case pronoun; “whom” is an objective-case pronoun. Period. “Whom” is proper usage in the objective case regardless of whether the object of a clause or sentence is known or unknown. “Who” is never the object of a clause, and “whom” is never the subject.”
Nosotros and vosotros simply mean “us” and “you” (plural, informal) in Spanish. They are used in all cases and tenses have nothing to do with the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is indeed used in Spanish when the object of a sentence or clause is unknown, but the subjunctive mood is expressed in the verb ending, not in any pronoun.
I was under the impression that “who” acts as a subject (correspondent to the nominative in a declined language) whereas “whom” acts as an object. So “I love my friend Alex, who is dancing with the mayor” would be correct because “who” is the subject of “is dancing” (and, incidentally, refers back to “Alex”, originally the object of “love”). But I would also need to say, “Dancing with the mayor is my friend Alex, whom I love” because “whom” is the object of “love” (though the antecedent, “Alex” is in the first place a subject rather than an object, which admittedly makes the clause grammatically correct but aesthetically displeasing).
With whom is the mayor dancing? Alex.
Who is dancing with the mayor? Alex.
I think all words should still be used… It leaves the human brain active… the less words that we have the less understanding that we have… nothing wrong with having a good vocabulary… its a difference between sounding educated and being educated… so keep the words
Yes, whom can be useful on the rarest of occasions but not in the examples given above in the article, “with whom did you come?” sounds bad enough, but “of whom are you a guest?” is not even English… seriously…
in this case, the most natural would be “who did you come with?”… dangling preposition? big deal!…. the only example I can think of where “whom” does not sound superfluous and pretentious is: “This is John, whom you’ve met yesterday.”
Whom is an objective pronoun. Who is a subjective pronoun. In the instance above regarding the party, whom is used as the object of a preposition. Whom is the object of with and of.
You can make up all the reasons you like, but in real life, ‘whom’ is the objective case of ‘who’. That is why it is ‘To whom’, ‘With whom’, and ‘Of whom’ in the examples above, because it is the object of the preposition, not because it refers to someone in the plural or someone who is unknown to the speaker.
Yes! Keep ‘whom’… I absolutely LOVE this word and I do find it necessary to use from time to time.
This explanation is inaccurate and untrue almost completely. Whom is an objective pronoun. That means it is the object of a verb. Subjunctive refers to the tense… of a verb, not a noun. AND, nosotros and vosotros are two different groups of people – we (1st person plural, a group of us), you (2nd person plural, a group of you). ‘Vosotros’ is an informal pronoun, the formal word used form a group of you is ‘ustedes’. Very poor research on this article and/or lack of editing. It’s unfortunate since grammar in our country is on the downswing anyway. We need to be careful when acting as an informational resource. Whom shall I say is responsible for this false information?
To whom this may concern:
I believe only smart and wise people know how to correctly use this word. Whom is a worthy word, and we must use it more often during our daily life. I love this word, It is very clever, but now a days when I say it all I get told is “I beg your pardon?” Most people do not even know how to use this word, most have no clue what it means. But we should start using It more! Whom! Whom! Whom! Lets start the revolution of the whoms!
Absolutely! Incorrect English, most especially in commercial print grates on my soul! Sounds extreme but when you are a careful listener of people’s words this is the case. Thanks for listening to me.
I am thrilled with this post! I don’t care if it makes me sound dumb, I had no idea beyond ‘to whom it may concern’ how to use that word. I believe I will try to sneak it into a sentance today. Wish me luck!
Most excellent!!! I had always wondered about the correct use of this word.
p.s. leaving comments on such a blog is very risky for “one’s net-cred”. You never know whom is criticizing your words. Is there such a saying as “whom-so-ever?”
It’s not worth keeping. English is a living language, and there’s never any point in trying to force people to keep archaic grammatical constructs. It’s never worked for any language, it’s never worked for English, and it will never work.
I do think it is worth keeping. Whom wouldn’t?
I will always refer ‘whom’ to Metallica’s song title, “For whom the bell tolls”. For whom it tolls you never know. There is no way to forgive this song, so personally, I am gonna keep ‘whom’ alive.
‘who’ when it’s the subject or object of a verb. ‘whom’ when it’s the object of a proposition.
Who came with whom, to whose party?
Funny, if you say whom long enough, it begins to sound weird.
I’d like to see a blog on prepositions at the end of the sentence, as suggested on your last post… I had enough of who/whom speal…
Who would dare to make texter have to think or slow down?
Sorry, I mean ‘forget’.
ok this is interesting
Unfortunately, I think this post is largely wrong, or at least misleading!
Both “who” and “whom” refer, when used as interrogative (i.e. question-asking) pronouns to unknown identities – neither is about “mystery” any more than the other. After all, you wouldn’t ask someone who they were if you already knew their identity!
The difference is rather one of case. You mentioned the use of “whom” after a preposition like “to” or “with”. In this circumstance, the relevant thing is the object of the sentence, rather than the subject. The distinction is just the same as that between “he” and “him”, or “she” and “her.” For example:
You are called Tom. Who are you? (‘You’ is the subject of the sentence)
I addressed the letter to you. To whom did I address the letter? (‘You’ is the object.)
But the preposition is not the only thing that can change the case – if you’re doing something to something else, that thing is the object of the sentence and its identity, if a person, can be questioned with whom:
I asked you a question. Whom did I ask? (‘You’ is again the object.)
The way to work out if “whom” belongs in a sentence is by seeing whether “him” or “her” would fit in its place:
He is called Tom. (Not “him is called Tom”, so “who” when asking a question)
I addressed the letter to her (Not “I addressed the question to she”, so “whom”)
I asked him a question (Not “I asked he a question”, so “whom”)
Note that “him” even ends with an “m” to remind you have the ending of “whom”!
It’s also worth mentioning that in colloquial English, “whom” is never necessary – all of the above “whom”-sentences can be rewritten with “who” and will sound fine, and indeed less formal. “Whom” is a useful tool to have at your disposal in case you ever need to write something in a formal context, but this blog post won’t be any help to anyone confused as to how to use it correctly! Perhaps this comment will.
[...] “WHOM” is it you’re speaking? — At Daily Words we’re often peeking. — To be an [...]
To Whom It May Concern,
The word, whom is available for use and it should remain that way.
Whom is to say, it’s not worth keeping. Just don’t use it if unsure of correct usage, or if it sounds too proper, or for any reason – JUST DO NOT USE WHOM.
Even though I’m going through a challenging, irritating, and most of all unnecessary time, I’m taking the time to email because whom is a word I veered from using. Now, I can use it with confidence because of you.
No matter if a word is taken out of the dictionary or never made it in, people will choose the words they want to use; to err or not to err, is the speaker’s choice. You know, we have freedom of speech.
Thanks and keep up the good work!
Hilarious! Greg and TS are correct. Ironically, the author of this article doesn’t even understand the difference between who and whom himself! It has nothing to do with the subjunctive form or any of the rest of that.
It’s simple: “who” is the subject (nominative form); “whom” is the object (accusative form). Period.
It’s like the difference between I and me:
“I gave the ball to him.” “I” is the subject.
“He gave the ball to me.” “Me” is the object.
“Who gave you the ball?” “Who” is the subject.
“He gave the ball to whom?” “Whom” is the object.
Sadly, the word “whom” is doomed in a world where even college graduates say things like: “Me and her are going to to class.”
I may be grossly mistaken, but I think your explanation of ‘whom’ might be incorrect. Am I crazy, or isn’t ‘whom’ simply the accusative version of the nominative ‘who?’ Who is a teacher? He is a teacher. But: John teaches whom? John teaches him. The same difference between the nominative He and the accusative Him is what differentiates who and whom.
This is absolute nonsense. ‘Whom’ is merely the accusative form of the pronoun. It is to ‘who’ as ‘them’ is to ‘they,’ ‘him’ to ‘he’, or ‘her’ to ’she.’ Use ‘who’ when it is the subject of a verb, and ‘whom’ when it is the object of a verb. Thus you would say “Who hit the boy?” because the pronoun refers to the subject of the verb (i.e., the hitter) but “The boy hit whom?” because here it refers to the object (i.e., the person who was hit).
The author of this blog should be ashamed of spreading such rubbish. Please replace it forthwith with an apology and a correction.
Apart from being an interrogative (“whom did you see”), ‘whom’ is also a relative pronoun used for the object that has preceded your statement: “The man whom you saw earlier” (the man being the object). Where I would have thought it being absolutely obligatory, is in its use with “to”, such as “the detective to whom you gave a statement” or “whom you gave a statement to”. It would just sound incorrect to say “…to who you gave a statement”, surely?
Although, I know, you hear more and more often these days: “…the man you gave the letter to” where no “who” or “whom” is used at all.
Yes, as an avid follower of this blog, I am disappointed. I have to wonder if there is a new blogger at dictionary.com. Not only was it incorrect, this article was poorly written.
Agree with Phil. The whole article is simply wrong and confusing people. Take it down and, more importantly, don’t let someone write a blog about grammar if they don’t know what the heck they’re talking about!
If ‘Whom’ is killed off, then John and me is going to the funeral.
To who do I send the flowers to?
And whom will drive us there, cause us shall be so sad?
(And then this writer/copy editor woke up screeeeaming : )
Andrew is absolutely right. It has nothing to do with mystery. It’s a simple matter of subject vs. object, or nominative vs. accusative case. “Who” equates with “he,” and “whom” equates with “him.” You would never say, “I came with he,” but many people ask, “You came with who?” However, I have long thought that the grammar should be amended so that “whom” is incorrect as the first word of a sentence that is a question. “Whom did you see?” and “Whom did you vote for?” just sound ridiculous. I would call this the “Interrogative case.” Yes, it does nudge out a few uses of “whom.”
Alejo, one would never say “whom you have met yesterday.” So one would never say ““This is John, whom you’ve met yesterday.” “Whom you have met previously” would work, though.
In any case, I can’t believe no one picked up on the “preposition at the end of a sentence” claim. There is no such rule.
Even the oxford dictionary has a post on this: It’s filed under “myths.”
I concur Kerry. This is how I remember when to use who or whom.
If I can replace the word WHO with “he,” “she,” or “they” then who should be used.
If I can replace the word WHOM with “him,” “her,” or “them” then whom should be used.
To whom are you asking this question?
The author said the word “whom” would include anyone in a mask. Wouldn’t that change the The Lone Ranger’s tagline to “Whom was that masked man?” And there’s a little place in the Dr Seuss universe where the mail could not be delivered because the letter carrier stubbornly believed the town should be called Whomville. Worst of all, Dr Who Subjective could meet Dr Whom Objective and cause the destruction of the universe, like matter and anti-matter touching. I say get rid of “whom” because too many lives are at stake.
The first commenter, Joel, starts his last sentence with the word “But”, and the second commenter, Andrew, starts his third paragraph with the word “And”, which are both conjunctions. Please forgive me, but I must be from the “old school” that says one should never start a sentence with a conjunction.
The author doesn’t know what he/she is talking about!
We use WHO when the prounoun is the subject of a sentence or
a predicate nominative. We use WHOM when the prounoun is
an indirect object or the object of a preposition. It’s as simple as that.
I always took ‘whom’ to be the object ‘who’ to be the subject
e.g. “Who did what to whom?”, “Whom did you kill?” or even “You are the one to whom I am speaking”. There is as much mystery in ‘whom?’ as there is in ‘who?’
Everyday communication has continued to become simpler and more fastfood, mainly due to technology, I guess. I think “whom” will hang around whether it “should” or not, because it will be a sign of an educated writer; it will separate the men from the boys.
I have read a number of these responses and am gratified to realize others are well informed about the usage of “whom,” better in fact than the author of this blog. “Whom,” as others have noted, has nothing to do with mystery. That is a ridiculous overreach, it seems, to tie into the upcoming Halloween theme. “Whom” is simply the objective case of “who” and I personally use it freely, all the time, when speaking english, as in “Whom did you see at the party Saturday night?” The answer might be “Nancy, Joey, Ed, and Lois.” all people whom I would know. It has nothing to do with a lack of direct personal knowledge of others. I would not say, “Whom did you see at the party Saturday night?” because the reply might include the names of persons I might not know. Absurd. Dictionary.com, you owe your audience better information than this nonsense. Go back to class-English 101.
It should most certainly be kept. Why should the sem-literate dictate language usage?
@ANDREW Just a small, well-intentioned note concerning your first reply. If others have already mentioned this, I ’speak’ with regret. I simply don’t have the time to read all the reponses to this Hot Word Blog. The reason it is proper to say “Who is that?” rather than “Whom is that?” is because the verb ‘to be’ [as in Who IS that?"] is an intransitive verb, which must take the nominative case, “Who,” rather than the objective case, “Whom.” If a transitive verb was used, then the objective case, “Whom” would be used, as in “Whom do you trust?” [NOT “Who do you trust.” Best wishes.
guys. please…shut up! your all constantly saying the same thing! who cares? oh i’m sorry. whom would care, since your all sooo grammar sensitive.
i mean, i’m cool with this whole “whom” thing. really! but you guys are going apesh*t over a word…that nooobody cares about. i’m sure most people didn’t even know this word existed!
cant we all just get along? i’m talking to you especially, john.
Just a moment to expand upon the usage of the nominative case. It is because the verb “to be” is an intransitive verb which takes the nominative case rather than the objective case that it is correct to say, “It is I.” rather than “It is me.” Also, when answering the telephone, if the caller says, “Is this so-and-so?” the correct reply is, “Ths is he/she.” rather than “This is me.” Best wishes. Talk it up! Nominative case ROCKS!!
We get to decide these things by voting? Whom decides who gets to vote? Whomever will likely lose, as whoever will not need to be identified in order to vote, and whomever becomes whoever as soon as she is identified. Thanks for explaining.
Wow! WHO screwed up this article!!!
I despise all inflected languages! The cases, declensions, conjugations, moods, and other what-have-you are all just redundant nonsense invented by some jerk or jerkette centuries ago, and we’re forced to comply with this crap. The Asian languages got it right – adverbs will handle all this just fine. For example, ‘I will go tomorrow.’ Why do we need ‘will go’ when ‘tomorrow’ already tells us the future tense? Are we all idiots, blindly following a useless tradition? Continental European languages are even worse – a fork is masculine and a spoon is feminine? Give me a freaking break!
Keep it ! It is necessary to keep the language as variegated and precise as possible, so why anybody would even consider removal of such useful form of “who” is beyond me. English was originally not my native tongue, but with
love of it and dedication to study it in any way accessible to me, short of attending the classes became for me just as comfortable channel of expression as to native English speaker.
The meaning has been well covered here but Hot word has ignored the rules of form – ie whom goes with prepositions for, by, to etc.
Some of the people who have commented have raised this.
I think its inclusion would help clarify the rules of FORM
“Whom” should definitely be kept! Call it a challenge or a last ditch effort to keep English and all of its wondrous parts alive. Part of English’s charm is how dynamic it is; however, there must be rules and standards so English can be taught and learned (ergo, the real issue is education).
I do not fully agree with the “mystery” argument presented here; therefore, I shall simply stick to the direct/indirect object standard . . .
It’s only ever confusing to anyone because of horrible explanations of its usage like the one in this post. It has nothing to do with whether or not the person is in front of the speaker or is the one being spoken to. It ONLY depends on whether the pronoun is performing the action (verb) or receiving the action (or is the object of the preposition). Simplified for people who don’t understand grammar, who = he and whom = him.
Whom should still stay around because it is using proper grammar. Not using whom correctly can make you sound stupid, so know it, and use it correctly. Love, 7th Period
I stand corrected, Lynn. I have been watching the debates and noticed I may have picked up a habit of not saying what I meant.
Keep “whom”! It’s not that difficult to use!
An easy way to remember:
If it can be replaced with “he”, then it’s “who” – e.g. “Who drove the car?” could easily become “He drove the car.”.
If it can be replaced with “him”, then it’s “whom” – e.g. “To whom did you send the letter?” becomes “You sent the letter to him.”.
As simple as that!
I think that doing away with a letter because people misuse it is not right. Who would ever do that? Should we only use realize instead of recognize just because they have similar meanings?
Yes it should be kept!! Should we have all of the different drill bits that exist because most of the world doesn’t use them or use them correctly? Of course! What carpenter could do his job without it? Words like whom and eloquent need to be kept around for the artisans that use them as building materials. We use 5x less words now than in the time of Shakespeare…isn’t that disheartening? We are rapidly producing garbage and when we get to the point where change is needed, we won’t have any of the words we need to communicate with! It may be difficult to understand and a lot of the new generation is more than happy being ignorant of grammatical rules but there are easier ways of comprehending..coming from someone with a learning disability.
The difference is (in words) as simple as nominative and accusative cases…Nominitive is the subject and the accusative is the *noun* that is receiving the verb. Nominitive = who, accusative = whom
My qwik-trick for knowing which to use (without thinking subject/object) is by using ‘he’ and ‘him’ to replace ‘who’ and ‘whom’ respectively in the sentence (usually in answer form..)
Does that cup belong to him? – To whom does this cup belong? (or Whom does this cup belong to?)
He went to the store – Who went to the store?
If him makes sense in the sentence, you need to use whom. If him does NOT make sense, you need to use who. Helpful?
I’m 15 years old and I use the word “whom.” I know many people don’t use it anymore, but that doesn’t mean we should just get rid of it! I like using whom, it’s a fun word and it makes your sentences seem much more formal! hahaha
If you’re proposing removing ‘whom’ from the lexicon, you might as well take out ‘him,’ ‘her,’ ‘them,’ ‘me,’ and ‘us.’
WHOM SHOULD DIE!
In response to kdubs, the “never end a sentence with a preposition rule” was taught to everyone with whom I attended school. I am sorry you missed it.
In response to the original article, shame on the author, and even more shame on the person responsible for posting it.
Please. You can’t just sandwich a “technical explanation” in between two paragraphs of incorrect information. (“Technically, ‘whom’ is the objective-case pronoun of the subjective-case pronoun ‘who,’ where ’whom’ refers to the object of a sentence and ‘who’ refers to the subject. It’s the difference between the accusative form, ‘whom’ and the nominative form, ‘who.’”)
The idea that “whom” is reserved for persons of unknown identity is absurd and needs to be taken out of this article, perhaps along with some amendment or an editor’s note.
kdubs, r u 4 real? “Alejo, one would never say “whom you have met yesterday.” So one would never say ““This is John, whom you’ve met yesterday.” “Whom you have met previously” would work, though.”
so, “whom you’ve met yesterday” would NEVER work, and “whom you’ve met PREVIOUSLY” would work just fine, eh? good to know… cause i was totally confused and out to lunch there… now i see it clear as day
and, on another note, i’ve never read so much bizarre and stupid s*ite as i have in this comment section… were half of you like dropped repeatedly on the floor as babies? for chrissakes…
I have never really understood the proper usage of “whom.” I did not even understand it when they were explaining it at the beginning of the post. But I am learning Latin, so when they threw in the “accusative” and “nominative” cases, I understood. The difference is the indirect object and subject of the sentence. I think we should keep whom. I always strive to sound educated when I speak, and this is one word we should keep in our vocabulary.
oh, okay, i get it, using present perfect with “yesterday” – a specific unique moment in the past… gotta be indefinite like “previously” or “before”… my bad, kdubs, you’re totally right… but the rest of you… still applies toodles
Well, you are confusing the point when you say that “whom” has a mysterious connotation. In fact, you are missing the point completely. Any pronoun connotes mystery, hence the definition of a pronoun. However, the important characteristic of “whom” is it’s ability to be the objective-case pronoun in a sentence. For example, you would not say, “I will give the book to she” or ,”I went to the party with she”. It is as simple as that. Eliminating “whom” would eliminate logic and consistency in speech. And by the way, why is it that when something cannot be grasped, it is in danger of being eliminated? Could that be why misunderstood children are tormented by bullies? This is a deplorable state of things.
Your assertion that the sentence “whom are you the guest of?” is wrong because it ends in a preposition is actually wrong. There are times you CAN end your sentences in a preposition.
The easiest way to figure it out is to remove the preposition. If the sentence still makes sense — where’s it at? –> where is it? — the preposition SHOULD be removed. But if it does not make sense — what did you step in? –> what did you step? — the preposition can stay.
The “no preposition at the end of a sentence” rule was created by Robert Lowth, a 17th century Latin scholar who tried to impose Latin rules on the English language, even though they never fit in the first place.
I wrote about this here: http://problogservice.com/2009/11/11/five-grammar-myths-exploded/
I think it’s a beautiful word and there should be more effort gone into using it. We shouldn’t let go of one of our last drops of Old English; It should be nurtured.
Hold up a minute… just for clarity’s sake, that isn’t how who/whom works. I’m no prescriptive grammarian and hence have no real opinion on whether whom should stick around, but the appropriate usage of the word has nothing to do with uncertainty.
The rule of thumb I’ve always heard is this:
1) If you’re asking a question that can be answered with him or her, use whom.
2) If it can be answered with he or she, use who.
3) Adjust accordingly for anything that’s not a question.
This skips the linguistic mechanics of why it works this way (which I’m not particularly good at) but should help anyone avoid misusage.
Whom is often found in Dear America and The Royal Diaries books. People used words that you would find oddly strange in modern times. People said thy and shan’t and whom. English is also a complex language to learn if it is your second language! Letters can make multiple sounds and some words need to be used in a certain way. Whom should be kept, because it is part of our complex language.
I think that whom also describes a person too. If they say whom a lot, you will notice that they may possess accent. If you find that the person says who a lot, they will often possess little or no accent. But, clearly, it depends entirely on the person!
Mom, can we keep it!?
“Whom” must stay!
….Absolutely!!! You Tell Them Chocolate Chips!lol!
Hmm…I was always told that if you wanted to check who/versus whom – ‘If the sentence makes sense with he, then you want who. If it makes sense with him – then you want whose.’ I was never told how to deal with ‘his’ though.
Whom is a really cool word, let it be..let it be..says einstein!
P.s: mind ur usage of it.
I am overwhelemed with joy to read the various comments on the use of the word,”WHOM”. My concept about the use of the word, ‘whom’ is quite clear. I don’t now, to whom I must be thankful or who deserves the thanks?
I am sad that it is going, but speaking is about communication, not just words fitting to rules, and using the word ‘whom’ gives a character impression of being pretentious, patronising and arrogant, because when you use it you sound like you are trying to be old-fashioned or posh, because these are what it is associated with.
Language evolves. Goodbye ‘whom’, hello LOL.
I’ve also used the “he/him” rule, which almost always works wonderfully.
If I expect a “him” as an answer, I ask for the whom. If I expect a he.
—Who was affected?
—He was affected
—Whom did that affect?
—It affected him.
I love how you language nerds are not WHO ultimately decides what a language looks like. To hell with centrally planned, economies, ethics, and language!
Shouldn’t it be “Which words might be removed…” rather than “What words might be removed”? These days few people care about who vs whom or ending sentences with prepositions. Let’s make life easier!
I always learned that if it can be replaced with “he,” then “who.” If instead “him” fits, then “whom.”
I am firmly of the opinion that simply because we allow the youth of today to manipulate and destroy the English language to suit their illiterate desires and needs, this should not be a reason to remove it from our records and abolish it to the archives never to be heard from again.
All the above comments gave rebirth to the word WHOM… So it is there within us..
Let it die, it is for nerds anyway and simpler to do without it.
I’m afraid this isn’t the way it works, we can’t consciously decide to keep an element of grammar in our language. All languages are in a constant state of change, and there’s nothing anyone can do to keep “whom” around just by wishing it. Maybe if we can get Homer Simpson or maybe Snooki to start using “whom” (i.e. popularize ), then it might have a chance … totally … LOL
Whom’s a Keeper! Yey to all whom like it! (Did I get that right?…)
Don’t worry about “Whom.” Be concerned instead for the widespread abuse of a time-honored but much more endangered convention, the generic masculine form of the first-person singular pronoun. (reference “AM,” Oct. 25 above.)
The difference between “who” and “whom” is simply one of case. English doesn’t use a lot of cases, but in terms of pronouns we do.
You use “who” in the same way you would use “I”, “he”, “she”, and “they”; that is to say, as the subject of a sentence.
“Whom” is a direct object and also used with prepositions just like “me”, “him”, “her”, and “them”.
If you’re using the interrogatory pronoun in a possessive way you use “whose”, the equivalent of “my”, “his”, “her”, and “their”.
It’s not that hard.
Andrew and James have it right. And the object/subject rules apply to ‘whoever’ and ‘whomever’ in exactly the same way.
Who wrote this article? (I did – subject)
By whom was this article written? (By me – object of a preposition)
Who replied to it? (We did – subject)
To whom were replies written? (To us – object of a preposition)
Who threw the book? (He did – subject)
Whom did the book hit on the head? (It hit her – direct object)
Who gave the gift? (They did – subject)
To whom was it given? (To us – indirect object)
Whoever replies to this article needs to pay less attention to grammar. (subject)
Share your grammar concerns with whomever you like (object)
Of course, ‘whom’ must stay and be made comprehensible to people who do not understand how to apply it.
On a wider note, one of the things which comes to the fore in a debate like this, and which I find disconcerting, is how many people do not actually understand, or are not taught, that language [any language] is a structural entity. Language exists as a kind of architecture by consensus. A process of reasoning exists behind the usage [or not] of certain constructs, like the usage of nominative versus objective case. This failure to appreciated and comprehend language roots is most regrettable. The reasoning which underlies language–what makes sense to the speakers of that language and what makes sense to the subscribers to the structural consensus– is very telling and quite fascinating. It offers a penetrating insight into peoples [the speakers] which might not otherwise be noticable. One very simplistic example is that in Eskimo language, there are more than a dozen words for different types of “snow.” Obviously, they need to be very specific when they speak about that substance. To english speakers, there is commonly only one name for that substance–”snow.” Surely this is fascinating to others than I. WHOM are we to follow in passing language down to generations of speakers–the so-what’ers or the intellectually vigorous? ‘Whom’ stays. If you think it is too much effort to know what it’s usage is, then sound like someone unlearned. My kids are going to know what it is and when to use it. Please don’t speak to them [or me] if ‘whom’ makes you uncomfortable.
Andrew, WHO wrote on October 24, at 7:27, is correct. _Whom_ is the objective case, and _who_ is the nominative case. They are not interchangeable, and there is no nuance involved.
Reword the sentence with _he/him_, _she/her_, _we/us_, etc. If the former word sounds better (e.g., “He brought you” for “Who brought you”), use _who_. If the latter sounds better (e.g., “You came with him” for “Whom did you come with?”) use _whom_. And YES, you may end a sentence with a preposition. You may also split an infinitive. (I can’t remember where I heard that – it may have been an interview with William Safire – but it was VERY liberating!)
absolutely keep it — the language is rapidly deteriorating — first it was throwing out adverbs, now it is misuse of apostrophes, lack of spelling and ignorance of any grammar, usage or sentence construction.
I was taught that “whom” is the “who” that follows a preposition; to whom, with whom, above whom, etc.
It’s nothing to do with mystery. It’s just this: if you’d say ‘him’ rather than ‘he’, then you should say ‘whom’ rather than ‘who’. It’s that simple.
“He asked me a question”>>>”Who asked you?”
“I asked him a question”>>>”Whom did you ask?”
I’m very happy for some people to stop using it, as it’s always useful to know who the stupid people are.
To whomever and whomsoever it may concern
You are guilty of ex-whom-ing a perfectly good and quite currently used word that requires no ex-whom-ation.
Just because you have not registered its regular use in your life, the circles that you frequent and the articles that you read and write does not mean that this word is not used quite frequently in the lives etc of others!
Using your yardstick as a measure of the liveliness or demise of a word a person born in England who travels to South America and lives for 50 years as the only foreigner with tribe of indigenous people who are totally unknown to the rest of the world could say “English is dead!” ………..
But for that to be true even just in that person’s life they would have to think and speak completely in some other language without ever remembering a single English word and even then the statement would be only relative to that particular person’s own personal experience.
Therefore your article is pure conjecture and totally related to your own particular experience, thoughts and consciousness within the current space and timeline you exist within.
Let’s go back to diagramming sentences. Then I think we would all get the difference between who and whom!
Of course we should keep it! It’s terrible that spelling and grammar have become so neglected. Grammar in the education system seems to have faded to the point that how much education one recieves on grammar is entirely dependent on which teachers one gets, and not on the school districts curriculum or standardized testing.
Preserve the dignity of English!
“Whom” should absolutely be kept. Once one masters (it’s almost like “one”) the correct use, it is a great way to express your nerdiness.
I don’t think the word “whom” should die out of usage… I use it a lot in the novel I am currently writing, and I wouldn’t want my book to be denied for having too many grammatical errors. Long live “whom”!
Die, whom will not. Listen to my words, this language will.
I say let it die. The who/whom distinction isn’t sufficiently significant to justify the inefficiency it brings to communication. (I feel the same way about noun genders in French, etc.)
Progress is usually perceived as blasphemy by most of the status quo.
Whom should have died during the industrial revolution, it’s far to dainty and effete for modern society. Whenever I hear it I picture a bunch of dandies in powdered wigs and petticoat breeches. The only people clinging to this awful word are peevish grammarians and English teachers.
‘With who did you come?’ sounds wrong. The reason is that it is wrong.
Whose decision is it to remove any word from the dictionary, anyway? I, along with both my children enjoy grammar and are forever shaking our heads when we see grammatical errors in letters, magazines, etc. Having good grammar is very rare these days and I don’t believe removing a word merely because it isn’t being used is justifiable. As mentioned previously, if people would just improve their grammar, this question wouldn’t have been asked in the first place.
Sia: “Hmm…I was always told that if you wanted to check who/versus whom – ‘If the sentence makes sense with he, then you want who. If it makes sense with him – then you want whose.’ I was never told how to deal with ‘his’ though.”
I think you mean ‘If it makes sense with him, you use whom.’ Whom is the objective case, equivalent to him. His is possessive, so this is where you would use whose. Hope that makes sense.
I love to use both. Basically, they are two different words. They are different in meaning, usage and application. However, not using the word “whom” does not make any difference either. One can easily replace it with any word that best applies to the idea or thought. Jumbling words that best fit anyone’s idea can be fun. It gives perks to anybody’s thoughts.
“-because it is a rule, and people need to be educated in order to uphold this rule.”, said the Grammar police. How about this. We keep the word “whom”, so everyone who feels “Ignorance is the problem.”, can cope. I’m just asking that we make the letter m silent in the word “whom”.
We should keep whom!
A professor once told my class:
It’s all about advantages and disadvantages of new technologies. Laziness from cutting syllables and letters in text messaging is about to submerge us into an illiterate world of communication. For instance, I see two major weaknesses in posts that some people write everyday – merging away from the main topic and writing things that are not English. You know you’ll need it to ace exams like the GRE if you plan to push for higher education.
Every language obey to grammatical rules, even though some of them evolve over time. You say it right: “who” is used as subject and “whom” as object. Who are we to delete the work of a man whom people still admire?
In this sentence, “whom” would sound awkward if it were “who”
“Whom” sounds very nice when you place it where it belongs, after the name of persons or your pet. Let’s cheer it and let’s start competing with the Asians for a spot at Yale, Harvard, etc. Foreigners are more likely to obey the English grammatical rules than Americans (that’s my bias).
If you had a chance to watch Cathy Couric’s interview with the Dean of Yale University last week, you would have an idea about how grammatical errors are a huge part of a candidate’s application being rejected.
As long as we keep using “who”, “whom” will always be alive, because the pronoun “who” cannot substitute for it; otherwise, it would sound very awkward.
I make a point of using whom where it should be used. So, yes, it should be kept. Moreover, perhaps it’s time that English was again correctly taught, to ALL school age children, as it should be spoken, and written . . . not as a PC afterthought.
It should most certainly be kept! Why should we who have a respect for English be affected by those who don’t? The latter would probably never crack a dictionary to find the word, anyways…
Take it out and take out Him and Her, too.
Whom is easy to use. Use Whom where you can use Him, and use Who where you can use He.
I address all formal emails and letters with “To Whom It May Concern”. To be honest, I don’t think replacing the “whom” with “who” would give such a formal greeting. I do not believe whom should be removed simply because most people do not know how to use it correctly. In fact, I believe that gives teachers more of a reason to teach more about the word and how to use it appropriately.
Rock on whom!!!
As Calvin Trillin once put it, “Whom is a word that was invented to make everyone sound like a butler.” I say, let’s bury it, and good riddance.
This article is thoroughly American:
Not only do you question whether it would be advisable to rob the English language of the last vestiges of proper grammar, you prove by your article that you do not even know the beginnings of the subject you write about.
Your explanation of the usage and purpose of “whom” is nothing but ridiculous.
You simply do not know what you are writing about, but you do it in a loud voice, in a prominent position, and you expect others to take you seriously
As I said: VERY American.
Please excuse the rest of the English speaking world for being disgusted.
Good luck in your further career!
Cool. Whom may that dude be? LOL
Typical lack of quality. Dictionary.com, you really need to smarten up on your editorials, for they currently turn the site into a bad joke.
I’ll keep it. I’ll use it. Done, and done.
In 7th grade my English teacher taught us how to use “whom” . Basically, when you ask a question, if the answer is “him or her” then you use “whom” . So you wouldn’t use it like this “Who called you?” “He called me” because you use “he”. But you use it for example when you ask “Whom was it for?” , the answer being “it was for him.” Simple to remember, whom for him and who for he. I never forgot this &I take pride in using “whom” correctly, only take a quick second to double check if I use it right
When I was in primary school in the 90s, ‘whom’ was still taught and used. I thoroughly disagree with this article. The writer is wrong. It’s also a shame to consider discontinuing the use of a very useful pronoun simply because people in this age do not know how to use it.
I vote this blog article as the most misleading blog post on grammar I have read this year. I cannot believe that dictionary.com has not yet offered an apology for the nonsense published.
There are numerous correct examples and explanations of the simple rules governing the use of “whom” among the 194 comments made on this blog so far.
Perhaps dictionary.com would like to collate these into some sort of order and publish a well thought-out post whose contents are correct?
To be honest, I think alot of people have been just saying how to use it, the question was not how but if we should keep using it. I’m pretty sure the writer does know, as he does mention the objective and subjective case, however he is just using an example to say why he beleives it should stay, which people may or may not agree with.
I do not think that ‘whom’ should remain apart of the English language, the reason it is so largely misunderstood is because English has largely lost its case system, yes it remains in a few personal pronouns but otherwise is irrellevent to English grammar on a whole. Naturally languages evolve over time and I think yeah not largely used words should stay but out-dated grammar should go. ‘Whom’ does not hold key to understanding, word order is more important in English. People like to hold on to things because they are traditions but do not seem to look at whether it is good or benificial to people as a whole.
I personally don’t use it accept in ‘To whom it may concern’ I do know when to use it but I find it unnatural.
I agree that the article is misleading. The reality is actually very simple, which is why I am often bewildered at the lack of grammatical comprehension from people who are, in other disciplines such as Maths and Science, demonstrably intelligent. I’m convinced it amounts to an intransigence, almost a presumption, on their part that they are above the constraints of language—though, as linguists know, there is always a balance to be struck between prescriptive and descriptive forms of analysis. Its simplicity offends them; but, just as strands of DNA constitute the building blocks of life, so the rules governing syntax and accidence enable us to communicate and, in some cases, produce great literature.
To clarify this particular rule, ‘who’ (the subject/nominative) and ‘whom’ (the object/accusative/used for all oblique cases which in English require prepositions such as of, for, by and with) are either relative pronouns—the man, ‘whom’ I just saw, is my uncle—or interrogative pronouns—’who’ made that noise? The latter is the one which necessarily precludes knowledge of identity. How is that confusing, I ask myself!
I believe my familiarity with two languages (Latin and French) whose nouns and adjectives, in varying degrees, undergo quite a lot of inflection according to the case, number and gender has rendered me more sensitive to the few case distinctions that English does throw up. It also makes me more passionate about retaining them, ‘whom’ being a perfect example. Would we willingly forfeit ‘me’, ‘him’, ‘her’, ‘us’ or ‘them’? No, that would be ludicrous. ‘Whom’ is not an arcane word the only advocates of which are the self-appointed ‘grammar police’. It is an indispensable pronoun, to which the same criteria should be applied. Granted, one can often substitute ‘who’ and make oneself understood, but that merely reflects the clemency and flexibility of English. Don’t take it for granted. Moreover, there is no reason to abandon ‘whom’ altogether and thus impoverish the language. In many cases, it still provides a useful degree of clarity.
Andrew, you’ve got it all wrong! When the subject of the sentence is doing nothing, you use whom. When the subject is doing something, i.e., antecedes a verb, it’s who. Leaves me pondering the question: “With whom did you come?” since the person with who you are speaking would have done an action with the other(s) in question.
Keep whom! Grammar makes the world go round!!
If a preposition is used, whom is correct. So how many know what a preposition is?
My confusion is with “persons” for more than one person. What’s happened to “people”?
It is even easier than that.
‘Who’ and ‘whom’ are always used in questions. To decide if you should use ‘who’ or ‘whom’, think about the answer to the question . . .
Where the answer would be ‘he’, use ‘who’.
Where the answer would be ‘him’, use ‘whom’.
For example . . .
Who did that? He did it.
To whom does it belong? It belongs to him.
Wow! so many comments. So, which one of them is a correct one? I am also having difficulties in using “whom” properly. Thanks!
My confusion is with “they” to refer to a single person. Does that make me an us?
@Lynnesha, “whom” in your sentence is not the subject of the sentence, it is the object of the prepositional phrase “with whom”.
I am so disappointed with the author of this article. There are so many user comments on this article that apparently don’t realize the author is wrong. This is 5th grade grammar; I thought this mistake is so basic, it’s disheartening.
On the other hand, we are exposing some urban legends of English grammar. Apparently, a lot of people had the same misconception that Hotword did – just looking at the comment wall. While I will never say the article is commendable; it may prove useful.
Your explanation of whom (objective case pronoun) is really great – but not very practical (sorry). I find that if you just remember “whom” always follows a preposition, it’s much easier to use.
Recall that a proposition is any word that completes the sentence, “The mouse ran [blank] the box.” So, our mouse can run under, over, in, out of, above, below – you get the idea. Now, it’s fairly easy to remember to say “to whom” and “from whom” and “for whom” and “with whom” and thus sound intelligent, not to say sophisticated.
And who wouldn’t want that?
Whom: is this rare pronoun really dead?
This pronoun [whom] is NEITHER rare, NOR is it ever interchangeable with [who].
A prior poster (Bill Brautigam, the son of an English teacher, who SHOULD have known better) offered a sequence of pronouns, and a music jingle to assist in the memorization of that sequence. Regrettably, that sequence was flawed. The CORRECT sequence would have been [first person singular, second person singluar, third person singular, followed by first person plural, second person plural, and third person plural]: I; You; He, She, It; We; You; and They. The sequence of first person, second person, and third person is critical to adhere to when learning the English language.
some of y’all are fanatics
In spite of all that has been said (at great length) above, I still maintain that we really don’t need multiple forms of any pronoun to make meaning clear in a well written sentence. Since we do not have for English an equivalent of the French Academy to determine what goes and what stays in an official version of the language, none of us in this august group will be able to rule on the question anyway. And I would maintain that “whom” is on the way out, however much it will sadden those who love the music of the language. Time will tell, as it always has in English. Gone like all those other pleasing forms that English inherited from the Germans. I was reminded at Evensong on Sunday night of another lovely departed usage: “He remembering his mercy HATH HOLPEN his servant Israel.” (Magnificat: Book of Common Prayer). What melody is there in that beautiful form! Sorry, Old Girl, that you are on the way to the dusty archive.
this comment section…makes me sickly
I think the word (whom) should stay in the dictonary.
Dear Don Fritz,
You are right, language tends to simplify over time. I’m sure many of us have read or heard of John McWorter of Columbia University – he of the linguistic arts, and in particular creole languages, who did a very good “The Great Courses” program which is available at many libraries. He made a persuasive case that we lose words, or inflections, or case nouns, over time because they are superfluous – people like simple, not complicated. You have captured Professor McWorther very well.
I remain happy to retain the distinction between who and whom. Am I a dinosaur? Probably – in a hundred years. For now, let’s sound educated. For surely, that is a lost art.
Who cares? Mostly the types of people whom we have met in Grad School. It sounds snarky in conversation to use ‘whom.’ It’s ‘irregardless’ we should kill, I think.
Two educated, successful well dressed friends Who & Whom walked into a bar. Who sat at the bar, while Whom went to the men’s room. Friendly bartender asked “Who are you with”. Who replied, Whom. Bartender, a English major college dropout was offended with the snarky reply and delayed his order.
Who decided to go to the loo after Whom sat down at the bar. When the Bartender came over to Whom and asked “who is that guy?”, Whom replied yes. The mildly ticked off Bartender asked again politely ” whom are you with?”. Whom replied “No, Who.”
The Bartender exploded: “I want you both upper class snobs out of this blue collar bar, RIGHT NOW”.
After this incident Who and Whom parted ways.
I apologize for any grammatical errors in rendition of this true story. English is only my first language.
“Whom” should definitely stay in the dictionary. It is true that the word is used less often, but it is still a part of our language. I see it more in written works than I hear it in day to day speech, but it is not extinct. Not everyone knows the difference anymore, and would rather rephrase a sentence to using “who” instead of “whom,” and avoid it altogether. For example, one might not say “With whom did you come?” and may say instead “Who did you come with?” to avoid misuse, even though this ends the sentence with a preposition. It may not be as often used, but “whom” is still a word worthy of English usage, if nothing else as an available tool to avoid ending sentences with a preposition.
Personally, I like the word “whom”. When I was a kid, if my mother were ever to mention selling something, my father would ask “to who?” and my mother would chime in, “to WHOM!” I learned that little bit of dialogue which I repeat, from time to time, with glee.
What I don’t understand is why you bothered to mention that the object needs to be absent in order to be covered my “whom”. The way I learned it, “whom” was simply the objective form of the unknown person. If you don’t know who the person is, you don’t know whether or not they are present, so you can’t limit your use of “whom” only to those who are absent. For another example, a speaker can address a group of people to find out which one of them received some information: “He told whom?” (I wonder if the speaker could ask “He told whom of you?”; that sounds awkward to me but seems technically correct).
It’s heartbreaking to me to see at times that some of the people commenting here know more about these words than article’s writer. This lack of research seems to constitute many impatient journalists in the word field today. Although, people may go to school, not everyone retains what they learn and continues to learn. That’s why, as a writer, I think it’s important to visit here frequently to learn new words and refresh old ones. However, how can any writer accurately do this continuing education by reading an article from an iffy source or reading an article from a supposed authority “to whom” proper information has not been given nor anything more than a sensational and intriguing title has been bestowed? This doesn’t go for simply this article, but many articles I’ve read on here. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see so many other word buffs speaking up for what they know to be truth. Please don’t let writing be lost to LOLs and OMGs, the dross of a constantly-evolving, quick-paced language of the modern world. Everyone can learn to write. Not everyone can be a writer. Someone please tell 92.5% of bloggers and modern journalists out there this.
FOR WHOMEVER CARES.
Of course Mark Pocock is correct for the very reasons he and others have expressed.. We keep “whom”. It would also be nice to recapture the true meaning of words like ” cool” ‘rad’ “hot” just once in a while.
It’s sad to say but I can only think of one person that I have heard whom from the past ten years and it was out of context.
Simply put, “whom” is the interrogative and relative pronoun for the dative case. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dative_case
Using phrases like “interrogative and related pronoun for the dative case” does not simplify this matter at all, it merely gives headaches to non-English majors. As an English teacher, I’ve found this definition easiest:
If “HE” and “HIM” can be used easily, so can “WHO” and “WHOM.”
WHO is used in sentences where HE would fit.
WHOM is used in sentences where HIM would fit.
With WHOM did you come? I came with HIM.
WHO is here? HE is here.
I would not say “I came with HE,” so I don’t say “With WHO did you come?”
I would not say “HIM is here,” so I do not say “WHOM is here.”
If you’re not certain if you should use WHO or WHOM, then reorganize the sentence as an answer. If you would use HE, then WHO is correct. If you would use HIM, the WHOM is correct.