Skip to main content

Who or whom?

A colleague asked me (an English copywriter) recently about the correct use of ”who” or ”whom” in a sentence. How do you know which one to write?

Basically there are two rules you can apply to help you make the right decision.

1. Find out which is the subject (who) or object (whom) in text by replacing them with “he” or “she” (subject) or “him” or “her” (object) to check for correct usage:

a) Thomas knew who/whom caused the problem.

Replace who with he:

Thomas knew he caused the problem. “Who” is correct

Replace who with him:

Thomas knew him caused the problem. “Whom” is incorrect

b) Who/whom can I contact?

Ask the questions:

Can I contact he/she? “Who” is incorrect.

Can I contact him/her? “Whom” is correct

2. Realize that each verb (with a tense) in a sentence must have a subject.

I will give the book to whoever/whomever wants it.

Break the sentence into two verb parts:

I will give the book … to he/she who wants it.

“whoever” is correct

I will give the book … to him/her who wants it.

“whomever” in incorrect