Who and Whom

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kellye

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Hello,

Can you please clarify for me when you should use who and when you should use whom? Thank you!

Kellye
 
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kellye,

Put simply 'who' is used as the subject of a verb: 'The actor who played the role of...' (to help, you could just say 'he' played the role of...'; that would give you some idea of which pronoun it should be);

'Whom' is used as the object of a verb: 'Whom do you like best', because 'whom' is the object of the verb 'like'.

Any use?
 

Tvita

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Is it correct to say: "Who should I send the mail to?"
 
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No, in this case you'd have to use 'whom' because you are talking about the mail (subject) being sent to someone (object). Also, often an indicator of an object word is one which is preceded by the word 'to'. Just a tip.
 

Tvita

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I posted the question (Which question is correct from grammatical point of view? Whom should I send the mail?

Who should I send the mail?) several months ago and got the following answer:

Tdol
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Re: Who and whom
You could say:
To whom should I send the mail? (formal)
Who should I send the mail to?
 
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Tvita, I see no difference in the grammatical meanings of the two phrases. The first is more formal than the second, but I still think the mail is being sent to the object of the sentence, thus 'whom' would need to be used in the second instance. Mind you, am I right in thinking that particular response came from the editor????
 

Tvita

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Actually I agree with you completely. When I got this response several months ago I could not find the logic. I mean I could not understand the answer completely. Today when I saw your answer to this post I finally got it. :) But now it seems to me that second version (with Who..) is incorrect. Maybe it is just word misspelling and it supposed to be word "whom".
 
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Tvita, I'm almost 100% sure that it has to be 'whom'. As you say, the logic is there isn't it. Glad I could help. Let me know if you have any other probs.
 

riverkid

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I posted the question (Which question is correct from grammatical point of view? Whom should I send the mail?

Who should I send the mail?) several months ago and got the following answer:

Tdol
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Re: Who and whom
You could say:
To whom should I send the mail? (formal)
Who should I send the mail to?

Both are correct, Tvita, grammatically and practically.

The first story was a nonpartisan analysis of supposed pronoun case errors made by the two candidates in the 1992 US presidential election. George Bush had recently adopted the slogan "Who do you trust?," alienating schoolteachers across the nation who noted that [who] is a subject pronoun and the question is asking about the object of [trust]. One would say [You do trust him], not [You do trust he], and so the question word should be [whom], not [who].

In reply, one might point out that the [who/whom] distinction is a relic of the English case system, abandoned by nouns centuries ago and found today only among pronouns in distinctions like [he/him]. Even among pronouns, the old distinction between subject [ye] and object [you] has vanished, leaving [you] to play both roles and [ye] as sounding completely archaic. [Whom] has outlived [ye], but is clearly moribund, and it already sounds pretentious in most spoken contexts. No one demands of Bush that he say [Whom do ye trust?]. If the language can bear the loss of [ye], using [you] for both subjects and objects, why insist on clinging to [whom], when everyone uses [who] for both subjects and objects?

Safire, with his enlightened attitude toward usage, recognizes the problem, and proposes Safire's Law of Who/Whom, which forever solves the problem troubling writers and speakers caught between the pedantic and the incorrect: "When [whom] is correct, recast the sentence." Thus, instead of changing his slogan to "Whom do you trust?" -- making him sound like a hypereducated Yalie stiff -- Mr. Bush would win back the purist vote with "Which candidate do you trust"?

Telling people to avoid a problematic construction sounds like common sense, but in the case of object questions with [who], it demands an intolerable sacrifice. People ask questions about the objects of verbs and prepositions [a lot]. Consider the kinds of questions one might ask a child in ordinary conversation: Who did we see on the way home? Who did you play with outside tonight? Who did you sound like? (Imagine replacing any of these with [whom]!)

Safire's advice is to change such questions to [Which person] or [Which child]. But the advice would have people violate the most important maxim of good prose: Omit needless words. It also subverts the supposed goal of rules of usage, which is to allow people to express their thoughts as clearly and precisely as possible. A question like [Who did we see on the way home?] can embrace one person, many people, or any combination or number of adults, babies, children, and familiar dogs. Any specific substitution like [Which person?] forecloses some of these possibilities.

And how in the world would you apply Safire's Law to the famous refrain Who're you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Safire should have taken his observation about the pedantic sound of [whom] to its logical conclusion and advised the president that there is no reason to change the slogan, at least no grammatical reason.

http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/1994_01_24_thenewrepublic.html
 

Tvita

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Shakespeare's brother -

Anyway thank you a lot :) - you are answering in very clear way. It helps such non-native speakers as I (I am not sure if I should put "I" or "me" here) to understand English.
 

Soup

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I've an innocent question. When would using who as opposed to whom change the meaning of an utterance? The two are not in complementary distrubution. Latin, yes; English, well, no.

Should we perpetuate this antiquated rule in our classrooms? After all, it is 2008.

What are your thoughts? :-D
 
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Soup, I'd agree with you and go further: the two words do not change the meaning of a phrase, and their misuse may be noticed only by the most pedantic linguist. And yes, it is yet again a quirk of English that quite possibly had its roots in latin.

So, why not change? But just a second, what else would you change? In a vocabulary of many hundreds of thousands would that be the only thing? With all the English quirks, where would you stop?!!!
 

Tvita

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The reason why I like English - it is because English is a logical language.

If we just stand on the point that it is enough to understand the idea of the sentences and doesn't matter if we break one old rule - we can damage the whole structure. English Grammar could become illogical and it would be very difficult to learn and understand language completely.
 

riverkid

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The reason why I like English - it is because English is a logical language.

If we just stand on the point that it is enough to understand the idea of the sentences and doesn't matter if we break one old rule - we can damage the whole structure. English Grammar could become illogical and it would be very difficult to learn and understand language completely.

We native speakers don't break old rules, we simply ignore 'rules' that aren't rules, Tvita. Our internal grammars don't allow us to follow rules that aren't English.

Another example is the subjunctive. There are only a couple of subjunctive forms left in English and of the forms that are left, there are other ways to express the same thing in nonsubjunctive ways. We still are able to express all that was expressed with the older dead subjunctive forms.

Language takes care of itself, it always has and it always will. People generate the grammar rules for their language and these are always changing.
 
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Grammar rules change slowly, not always and sometimes never - there are still grammatical systems in place from old-English. Tvita's point about damaging the structure of language is a good one. I'm interested to know exactly what point you are trying to make.
 

riverkid

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Grammar rules change slowly, not always and sometimes never - there are still grammatical systems in place from old-English. Tvita's point about damaging the structure of language is a good one. I'm interested to know exactly what point you are trying to make.

I thought I was quite clear, S'sB. Actually Tvita's point about "damaging the structure of language" is completely untrue, though it's often repeated. The manner that you described for who/whom is a case in point. Native speakers, most often, do not follow the guidelines you noted and yet language and communication go on unimpeded.

There are numerous examples where English has changed dramatically and again, communication goes on unimpeded.
 

Tvita

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What do you think why English is so popular nowadays, why it becomes an international language?

A lot of Russian people are everywhere, why English is so popular, why not Russian, for example.

Russian is very complicated language and even Russian native speakers make a lot of mistakes in written Russian for example.

Try to learn Russian and you understand how harmful for learners is the phrase like this "there is no particular rule in this case - we just speak so..."

I understand that language grammar is not mathematics. But I repeat once again I really enjoy English Grammar because in most cases it is logical :)

Thank you everyone for interesting discussion :)
 
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riverkid

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What do you think why English is so popular nowadays, why it becomes an international language?

A lot of Russian people are everywhere, why English is so popular, why not Russian, for example.

English is the international language of business, Tvita, largely because of past political events and the fact that the major industrial countries have English as their mother tongue.

There's nothing magical about English. Given different historical scenarios, it could be another language.


Russian is very complicated language and even Russian native speakers make a lot of mistakes in written Russian for example.

Try to learn Russian and you understand how harmful for learners is the phrase like this "there is no particular rule in this case - we just speak so..."

I didn't say that there was no rule. I said that the rule is not what is described by the old prescription. Of course there are rules for English and English speakers follow the rules fastidiously.

They just do not follow prescriptions because prescriptions are not rules that describe the English language. You have to realize that there are different rules that govern speech and writing and even different levels within speech and writing have somewhat different rules.


I understand that language grammar is not mathematics. But I repeat once again I really enjoy English Grammar because in most cases it is logical :)

Thank you everyone for interesting discussion :)

Thank you too, Tvita.
 
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