Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Whoever And Whomever

What is the difference between ‘whoever’ and ‘whomever’? Both words are very similar in meaning and usage. However, the words, although both pronouns, cannot be used interchangeably because of grammar. Which word is correctly used in a sentence requires some understanding of the complexity of English grammar rules.

‘Whoever’ is a pronoun that is a compound word made up of ‘who’ and ‘ever’. It indicates which person or persons. For example: Whoever is going will have to ride the bus. It is used as the subject of a sentence, such as in this example, and it can be used when asking questions. This is especially the case when expressing surprise. For example: Whoever could be at our door this late at night! ‘Whoever’ can also be used when it is part of the predicate of a linking verb. For example: He realized whoever was not already there wasn’t coming. These usage rules are the same ones that apply to the pronoun ‘who’.

‘Whomever’ is also a pronoun, made up of ‘whom’ and ‘ever’, but it is the objective form of ‘whoever’. It is used when it is the object of a verb. For example: He gave the mail to whomever lived at the house. Just like ‘whoever’ it follows the same grammatical rules as ‘whom’. While this is the grammatically correct way to use ‘whom’ and ‘whomever’, it should be noted that many English speakers avoid using ‘whom’ and ‘whomever’ in everyday conversation. This is because ‘whom’ has a formal or pretentious sound to many native English speakers. For example, this sentence is correct but sounds overly formal: The winners whom won the race are celebrating. A more natural way to say the sentence in casual conversation is to use ‘that’ instead: The winners that won the race are celebrating. Some speakers may simply use ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’, and although technically incorrect, it is widely accepted in informal conversation. For example: Whom did you meet? Although correct, it is likely ‘who’ would be used instead of ‘whom’ by many native English speakers.

So deciding which word to use in a sentence primarily has to do with its placement in the sentence. Either word can be used with a dependent clause, or a group of words with both a subject and verb, but it does not express a complete thought like a sentence. Whether ‘whoever’ or ‘whomever’ is used depends on agreement with the verb in the dependent clause, not the rest of the sentence. For example: I will give it to whomever needs it the most. ‘Whomever’ agrees with the verb in the dependent clause ‘needs it the most.’ However, if the entire clause that contains either ‘whoever’ or ‘whomever’ is the subject of the verb that follows the clause, then it must agree with that verb. For example: Whoever left the door open must shut it. ‘Whoever left the door open’ is the subject, and ‘must’ is the verb it agrees with.


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2 Comments

  1. “For example, this sentence is correct but sounds overly formal: The winners whom won the race are celebrating.”

    Not true: the sentence should read: “The winners who won the race are celebrating.” Who indicates he, she, or they; whoM indicates hiM, (or her), or theM. M mark the case (except for her).

    The winners . . . are celebrating.
    They . . . are celebrating. (Not “Them . . . are celebrating.”)

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