Pronouns are words that replace a noun. They stand in their stead to avoid repetitive wording and phrases. They are one of the first things English language learners learn to conjugate, but their general use can become confusing without practice.
Pronouns must be used in their correct form to keep your sentence structure grammatically correct, and two of the most confusing pronouns in the English language are who and whom.
This article explains the proper use of who and whom and their respected, related forms.
Who vs. Whom: What’s the Difference?
Who is used when it replaces the subject performing the action. Whom is used when it replaces the subject receiving the action.
- Who will be chaperoning the party?
In this sentence, who replaces the specific person who is chaperoning the party.
- You did not expect to see whom?
In this sentence, whom replaces the name of the person you did not expect to see.
Nominative and Subjective Pronouns
Nominative (or subjective) pronouns are the subject of either independent or dependent clauses.
Objective pronouns are the recipient of action or are an object of a preposition.
Possessive pronouns show possession of something else.
Use this chart to help you understand how who and whom (and the related whose) fits into these definitions.
Possessive use (whose) is rarely an issue, but we’ve included it here so you can see the additional use of the pronoun when related to ownership.
Subject or predicate nominative
I, You, He, She, It, We, They, One
Direct object, the object of a verbal, or object of a preposition
You, Me, Him, Her, It, Us, Them, One
To show ownership
Your, Mine, Hers, His, Ours, Thiers
The Nominative Case Rules
The nominative case is reserved for subjects and predicate nominatives. They perform the action of the sentence.
A predicate is part of a sentence or clause that contains a verb and also states something about the subject (for example, the dog is a beast. “Is a beast” is the predicate).
Use who or whoever for the subject of a verb.
- Who is the person reading the instructions?
- I know who had the best drawing and won the art award.
- He chose whoever created the best original sketch.
- I will accept help from whoever offers it.
Use who or whoever for a predicate nominative.
- The culprit is who?
- They do not know who the culprit is.
- Who am I to you?
- This is who I am to you.
The Objective Case Rules
The objective case of whom and whoever refers to direct objects of verbs, objects of verbals and objects of prepositions. They receive the action of the sentence.
A preposition is a word or group of words placed before the noun or pronoun to explain time, location, direction or spatial relationships.
Use whom and whomever for the direct object of a verb or the object of a verbal.
- Whom did you expect to see?
- Select whomever you want.
Use who or whomever for the object of a preposition.
- From whom did you receive the message?
- I spoke to the professor with whom we had eaten lunch.
Use who and whom as a pronoun to indicate a subject or object group question. They serve as a nominative case (who) or an objective case (whom) within the sentence structure.
Who replaces the subject performing the action and is used with I, You, He, She, It, We, They and One. Whom replaces the subject receiving the action and is used with You, Me, Him, Her, It, Us, Them and One.