GRAMMAR TIP: Who vs. Whom

“Who” is the subject form of the pronoun, so it’s the DOER of an action, as in “That’s the man who owns this restaurant.” (subject of “owns”). “Whom” is the object form of the pronoun, so it RECEIVES the action, as in “Whom do you like best?” (object of “like”).

 

Can you figure out the problem in the following examples?

 

  1. The heroine in the story is 19-year old Leia Cole, whom people suspect is the boss’ wife.
     

  2. A Bay Area man whom police believe is responsible for fraud is scheduled to appear in court May 25th on embezzlement charges, authorities say.
     

  3. CHP radioed deputies to stop the driver, whom, according to reports, appeared to have been under the influence.
     

  4. Before we started coming to these open calls, I had taken her to numerous modeling coaches whom in my opinion were just out for the money and not the overall improvement of my daughter’s modeling career.

In each example, the “whom” should be “who”!

 

If these errors jumped out at you as soon as you read the sentences, you can stop reading now. If you’re not quite sure why these uses of “whom” are incorrect, read on.

 

“Whom” is an object form like “him”, but in each of these sentences, the “whom” is being used as the subject of a verb. “Who” is the subject form.

 

Writers can avoid falling into this trap by taking a closer look at all the verbs. Because “whom” can only be an object, eliminate all the subjects first. Determine which subject word goes with which verb.

 

Now, let’s go back to our examples:

 

  • The heroine in the story is 19-year old Leia Cole, who people suspect is the boss’ wife.


    This sentence contains three verbs: “is”, “suspect”, and “is”.
    The subject of the first “is” is "heroine".
    The subject of “suspect” is "people".
    The subject of the second “is” is "who" (not whom).

Note: the verb “suspect” is what tripped the writer up. In another context, “suspect” could be used transitively: “He’s the man whom the detectives suspect.” In this sentence, “suspect” has no object.

 

  • A Bay Area man who police believe is responsible for fraud is scheduled to appear in court May 25th on embezzlement charges, authorities say.

    This sentence contains four finite verbs (a verb that has a subject expressed or implied): “believe”, “is responsible”, “is scheduled”, and “say”.
    The subject of “believe” is "police".
    The subject of is “responsible” is "who" (not whom).
    The subject of “is scheduled” is "A Bay Area Man".
    The subject of “say” is “authorities”.

Note: The trap here is “police believe.” In another context, “believe” could take an object, but not here.

  • CHP radioed deputies to stop the driver, who, according to reports, appeared to have been under the influence.

    This sentence contains two finite verbs : “radioed” and “appeared”.
    The subject of “radioed” is “CHP”.
    The subject of “appeared” is “who” (not whom).
     

  • Before we started coming to these open calls, I had taken her to numerous modeling coaches who in my opinion were just out for the money and not the overall improvement of my daughter’s modeling career.


    This sentence contains three finite verbs : “started”, “had taken”, and “were”.
    The subject of “started” is “we”.
    The subject of “had taken” is “I”.
    The subject of “were” is “who” (not whom).

If all this seems like too much grammar to deal with, send us a message today to inquire about our professional editing services!

 

 

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