Tuesday, December 21, 2010
"Who-Whom" & "Whoever-Whomever"
A note about this lesson: this is an example of why it takes effort to learn how to write well—and why not everyone who teaches is good at what they do. I have said for years to my students that “I don’t sit in a magical chair of English knowledge—I’ve had to work to learn what I know.” And there isn’t some kind of magical newsletter that tells us about rules—we have to find our sources too.
To me, it matters about effort: what is the instructor/teacher doing to help the student, and how much is the student willing to apply what is taught? I hope that’s why you’re here on this blog—because it’s why I create these posts. Your learning matters to me.
Who vs. Whom
Rule: Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct:
He = who Him = whom
Example: Who/Whom wrote the letter? He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.
Example: We all know who/whom pulled the fire alarm.
This sentence contains two clauses: We all know and who/whom pulled that fire alarm. The second clause is our focus because it contains our choices of who/whom. He pulled the fire alarm.
Example: We want to know on who/whom the fire alarm was pulled.
Whoever vs. Whomever
Him + He = whoever
Him + Him = whomever
Rule 1. Use the “ever” suffix when who or whom can fit into two clauses in the sentence.
Example: Give it to whoever/whomever asks for it first.
Give it to him. He asked for it first. Give it to whoever asks for it first.
Rule 2. When “him” fits both, use “whomever.”
Example: We will hire whoever/whomever you recommend.
We will hire him. You recommended him. We will hire whomever you recommend.