Who and whom are some of the most commonly confused words in English, and though they're not homophones, they are both types of relative pronouns.
Knowing when to use them, how to use them, and how to differentiate between them can be tricky but don't worry, here we will break them down, so you can avoid this common grammar pitfall.
Who is a subjective pronoun that is sometimes interrogative; it always functions as the subject of a sentence. Who either asks a question about the subject or reintroduces the subject to give more information to the audience.
Try it out for yourself; write down a sentence that includes who and replace it with a subjective personal pronoun such as "he, she, it, or they." If it fits, then you've got the right word! If you can answer the question with "he, she, or it as the subject," then use who.
Who is coming over today? She, he, or they are coming over today.
Who left the door open? They did.
Who gave it to you? He gave it to me.
Who made this amazing cheesecake? She, he, we, or they made the cheesecake.
Who told you? This is who told me.
Do you know who she is? Yes, I know who she is.
On the other hand, whom is an objective pronoun and is often used in formal written English. Whom replaces the object of the sentence and asks which person receives the object. The object of a sentence is the person, place, or thing receiving the action.
Try it out for yourself; write down a sentence that includes whom and replace it with an objective personal pronoun such as "him, her, or them." If it fits, then you've got the right word! If you can answer the question with "him, her, or them," use whom!
To whom it may concern. I am speaking to him, her, or them.
To whom is this parcel addressed? The parcel was addressed to him.
With whom should I talk about the proposal? Danny wanted to talk to them.
This is my sister whom you met last month. You met her.
Whom do you believe told the truth? Barry believed her.
Whom did you tell? He told him, her, or them.
Check out our quick tips to increase your knowledge of these commonly confused words.
Who always functions as the subject of a clause and performs the action. It can be used in questions when the response can be answered with a subject pronoun, "he, she, or it," or when the subject performs the action.
Whom functions as the object of a clause and receives the action. It can be used in questions when the response can be answered with an object pronoun, "him, her, or them."
In Modern-day usage, who and whom are used interchangeably. Despite being grammatically incorrect, whom is considered formal and old-fashioned, so who has become more common. You will still see whom in academic and formal writing, so it's worth knowing the difference!
When to use who?
When to use whom?
How to remember who vs. whom?
Spell checkers don't always have you covered. Sometimes your word might be spelled correctly, but it could be the wrong word. In English, there are lots of confusing terms that look alike but are spelled differently, and many terms that mean the same thing but are easily misused.
Here are the most commonly confusing word pairings, with definitions and examples of their usage.