Okay, guys. I’m about to embark on one of the most confusing aspects of grammar and word choice. It is mistaken so often, I would have go into spasms if I even attempted to address it at every encounter. Alas, this is a daily struggle. So, with that, I will describe the differences between who and whom, how to use them, and, most importantly, how to avoid mistakes. First, in order to fully understand the differences between these two, we also must discuss the differences between subjects and objects. I have covered this in previous grammar posts but here is a brief refresher for you. To help remember the differences between subject and object, you can use this interesting mnemonic:
I love you; you are the object of my affection.
Aw, how sweet. This mnemonic works in two ways, both of which describe subject and object pretty clearly. I, in this sentence, is the subject and is in the active voice— I is doing the loving here. You, on the other hand, is the receiver of this action, making this the object. This fact, of course, is further clarified by the mnemonic: You are the object of my affection. Quite literally, you is the object of I‘s affection. Such is love. Okay, moving on. Who and whom both function as pronouns but, in operation, they differ from each other much like subjects and objects do. Who operates as a subject– it is the I of the above mnemonic. Whom, in turn, operates as the object– the you. As such, their usage has to follow these functions; who completes the action and whom is the receiver. Here are some examples: Who stole my cheese? : The who, in this instance, is the one allegedly stole my cheese. Therefore, it is the subject. From whom did you steal that cheese? : Here, whom functions as the one who the cheese was stolen from; it is the receiver of the action, steal. Therefore, it is the object. Following this, use whom when you are referring to the receiving object. So, the question “who do you think you are?” is correct. But, the questions “Who do you love?” and “Who do you voodoo?” are not. Another easy way to remember is to think of the answers to these questions and how they would relate to he or him Meaning, when I ask “From whom/who did you steal that cheese?” and you answer “from him,” then you know to use whom. Similarly, if you ask “Who/whom does he think he is?” and you answer “he think he’s the cat’s pajamas,” then you know to use who. Just remember: the –m in him should correspond with the -m in whom.