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.

I’m saying that because this particular lesson is one of the more difficult rules for me to remember, but I’m going to work on it until I have it memorized and automatic in both my speech and writing.  It’s about Who vs. Whom and Whoever vs. Whomever.

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/whomHe pulled the fire alarm.  

Example:  We want to know on who/whom the fire alarm was pulled.
Again, look at the second clause because it contains our clue:  “…on who/whom…”  The fire alarm was pulled on him.  Therefore, “whom” is correct.

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.

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