Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Who and Whom

who Who vs Whom

Native English speakers and English learners alike can become quite confused with the differences between who and whom. In fact, among native English speakers making errors with the use of who and whom is so common, that in spoken English it has become reasonably acceptable. With a basic understanding of some English grammar particles there is no reason to make errors with use of who and whom in the future.

Who and whom are parts of language that are known as interrogative pronouns. They are used to form questions as well as making statements.

To understand when to use who and whom appropriately you must first understand the difference between a subject and an object in a sentence. Who is a subject pronoun and whom is an object pronoun. In the nominative case who takes the place of the subject and in the accusative case whom takes the place of the object.

This sounds rather complicated, but isn’t really. A subject is a person and an object in a sentence is a thing or item. For example: ‘Kate patted the puppy dog.’ In this sentence Kate is the subject of the sentence and the puppy dog is the object of the sentence. If we wanted to ask a question related to this sentence involving who or whom we could say: ‘Who patted the puppy dog?’ (In this instance we are replacing the subject with who and are more interested in the person doing the action than the action being done) or ‘By whom was the dog patted? (We are interested more in the object of the sentence and are more interested in the action being done to the object of the sentence).

English follows a subject ‘“ verb ‘“object pattern and it is more usual in English for the subject to be the most important part of the sentence. The object as the main thrust of the sentence is less common, but still required in some instances.

Let’s take another example: ‘Mrs. Smith sent Bill to the shop to buy some apples.’ If you wanted to know who had sent Bill to the shops, then since Mrs. Smith is the subject of the sentence you would say: ‘Who sent Bill to the shops?’ If you wanted to know who Mrs. Smith sent to the shops, then since Bill is the object of the sentence you would need to use whom. For example: ‘Whom did Mrs. Smith send to the shops?’

If you learn how to determine the subjects and the objects of a sentence, then you will not continue to experience problems with understanding the difference between who and whom.

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