Welcome back from break, Class! I hope you had as lovely a time as I did! I’ve missed you all, though, and am happy to be home again.
Today’s lesson covers the tricky topic of who/whom. This is something, I have to admit, which still gives me a little trouble, so I’ll explain the rules to you, then tell you the ‘trick’ I use to help me figure out which to use when. Please also understand that the more formal uses for which whom/whomever are generally pressed into service are steadily disappearing in favor of the less formal who/whoever; it’s one of those “language evolution” things again..
Who and whoever are subjective pronouns – which is just a fancy way of saying that they act as subjects in sentences:
Who left the door open?
Whoever wants dinner should hurry to the kitchen!
Whom and whomever are objective pronouns, which means that they are the object of the verb:
To whom do I address my complaint?
We will nominate whomever the committee suggests.
Instead of trying to figure out whether the word I’m looking for is the subject or the object, I tend to use this little trick; take out the “wh” word and replace it with a third person pronoun – for the sake of simplicity, let’s use “he.”
If you can replace the “wh” word with “he,” you want who or whoever. If you have to use “him,” though, you want to use whom or whomever (the “m” in him helps me remember the “m” in whom). Recognize that you may have to reword your sentence to figure this out, but that doesn’t really matter as long as you keep the original verb tenses. Let’s use one of each of the sentences above:
Who left the door open? HE left the door open. “Who” is correct.
We will nominate whomever the committee suggests. WE will nominate HIM. The committee suggests HIM. “Whomever” is correct.
Now you try one:
The grandfather left his sizeable estate to whoever/whomever didn’t bring a lawyer to the reading of the will.
Do you know which to use?