Who and whom

Ju

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1. Who did you meet at thell library? Amy and Susan.

2. Whom did you meet at thell library? Amy and Susan.

Number 2 is the sentence I found in an English text book. But I don't understand the difference in usage between the above.

Thanks.
 

GoesStation

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English teachers used to try to get people to use whom when a sentence requires an object pronoun. Few English speakers do so except when it follows a preposition.

I hope the textbook didn't say ​thell library.
 
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Rover_KE

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We've all liked the above without noticing that precedes should be follows.
 

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Ju

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Dear Piscean,
Sorry, I still don't understand.
Thanks.
 

Phaedrus

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I still don't understand.
Who(m) functions as the direct object of "meet." Compare:

You met whom at the library?

Notice that you wouldn't say, *I met they at the library.
You would say, instead, I met them at the library.
 

Tdol

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Most English speaker don't use whom, except in very formal contexts or after a preposition - to whom it may concern. Originally, who was a subject word and whom an object word, but the distinction is being lost as we use who for both subject and object most of the time.
 

Phaedrus

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Most English speaker don't use whom, except in very formal contexts or after a preposition - to whom it may concern.
Interestingly, in "to whom it may concern," it is not because, as commonly supposed, "whom" follows a preposition that we use "whom," but rather because "whom" functions as the object of the transitive verb "concern" in the free relative clause "whom it may concern," which as a whole functions as the object of the preposition "to." We would use "who(ever)" if the wh- word in the free relative clause functioning as the object of "to" were the subject of the free relative clause, as in "to whoever left their backpack in the classroom."
 

Tdol

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The vast majority of people who say to whom it may concern would not say whom it may concern, or whom did you meet, so I would respectfully not fully agree- they are mostly shoving whom in because it is a standard phrase and because it comes after a preposition.
 

Phaedrus

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The only odd thing about "to whom it may concern," which makes it something of a set phrase, is the absence of the "-ever" suffix. The use of the objective-case relative pronoun is perfectly normal and called for there.

Again, it's interesting to note that in phrases like "to whoever left their backpack in the classroom," "to whoever took it," "to whoever likes her," etc. -- all of which are similar on the surface to "to whom it may concern" -- "whomever" would actually be ungrammatical. We need "whoever" in those other cases, regardless of the fact that the word follows the preposition. That's because "whoever" isn't the object of the preposition. The object of the preposition is "whoever took it," etc. "Whoever" is the subject of that clause.

Thus, the native speaker for whom "whom" is to be shunned except in cases like "to whom it may concern" is liable to go wrong and use "whom" or "whomever" when "whoever" is the only formally correct choice -- specifically in the type of context I have been talking about. I have seen my fellow natives fall into this trap time and time again, and it always tells me that they haven't studied very much grammar. Whoever falls into this trap should tell whomever they studied grammar under that they have been led astray.
 
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TheParser

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But I don't understand the difference in usage between the above.


NOT A TEACHER


Hello, Ju:

May I share a few thoughts with you?

1. "Who did you see?"

a. I think that it is accurate to say that most Americans would use "who."

2. "Whom did you see?"

a. This is the traditional correct form.
b. Notice the effort that it takes to pronounce "whom."
c. If you mentally put the words in regular order, it may be easier to understand why "whom" is the grammatically correct choice.

i. "You did see ___?" (As the teachers reminded us, one uses the objective form of the object after a verb. Of course, you would say "I saw him," not "he.")

3. Some people feel that in formal writing, it is still a good idea to use "whom" whenever it is grammatically appropriate. Of course, that is your decision.

4. Finally, there is a social dimension to this matter. In my opinion, some people (especially the young) may avoid using "whom" because it is not common in everyday speech and may seem pretentious to their listeners.
 
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GoesStation

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Now that who functions as both an object and a subject, Who did you see? is just as correct as Whom did you see?
 

Phaedrus

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Another good place to exercise one's grammatical right to use "whom" is in nonrestrictive relative clauses where the relative pronoun functions as object:

"I introduced them to a good friend of mine, whom I've known for a long time."

In restrictive relatives where the relative pronoun functions as object, grammar gives us a way out of the dilemma of incorrectly using "who" or overly formally using "whom." We can opt to use nothing whatsoever!

"I introduced them to someone I've known for a long time."
 

GoesStation

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... incorrectly using "who" ....
The easiest way out of this dilemma is to stop believing that who can't be used as an object pronoun.
 

Phaedrus

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The easiest way out of this dilemma is to stop believing that who can't be used as an object pronoun.
That may be, but a counterfeit's a counterfeit. Which one really is an object pronoun?
 

GoesStation

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That may be, but a counterfeit's a counterfeit. Which one really is an object pronoun?

Both who and whom can be object pronouns. Who can also be a subject pronoun.

I don't know who invented the rule that who can only be a subject, but it must have been after Shakespeare wrote these lines: "Who wouldst thou serve?"; "To who, my lord?" (King Lear l.iv.24, V.iii. 249); "Who does he accuse?" (Antony and Cleopatra Ill.vi.23).
 

Phaedrus

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Both who and whom can be object pronouns.

Which of them is an objective-case pronoun?
 

Tdol

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That is a prescription that flies in the face of genuine usage. Let's take In whom we trust. Many would use that. But what percentage of those users would say Whom we trust in? And of those, how many would say Whom we trust. And of the tiny residual numbers left, how many would say Whom do we trust? People can try endlessly to lay down laws, but usage patterns may well suggest otherwise, here with a tradition extending back centuries. To say that who is never an object is simply turning a blind eye to the hundreds of millions of users who use it as an object every day. Few people say Him went there or I saw he, though there are examples in some variants. The vast majority use who did you see. Any conclusion that leads to the claim that who is never an object would have to ignore the speech and writing of hundreds of millions of users to promote some bugbear. That is a view that is, for me, up there with the people who insist that It is I is the only true and correct form.
 
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