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Who says WHOM is dead?

Updated on March 21, 2009

To whomsoever it may concern

I have no patience with those who, with an easy unconcern, discredit WHOM and deny its right to exist. Considering that it is mostly the native English speakers who are guilty of this negligence, it is both sad and surprising. I can't help but suspect that those who ignore the place of WHOM have no knowledge of any other language. If you know German or an Indian language, say Tamil, you will instinctively apply the equivalent of WHOM while speaking and writing.

For those, and only for those, who might have thrown WHOM unceremoniously out of the window, I present an example to validate its existence.

Consider this sentence.

He kisses her.

Now, if we are to frame a question for that affirmative sentence, it will read:

Q1: Who kisses her?

And the simplified answer will be: He

Now, let's frame the other question to draw the rest of the information from the sentence:

Q2: Who does he kiss?

The answer to that question is: Her

Now, compare the two questions and the corresponding answers.

Q1: Who? A1: He

Q2: Who? A2: Her

There seems to be something wrong and inconsistent here.

A2, it appears, has to be She, because you have He as the answer for Q1. Or, if A2 is assumed to be right, then A1 should be Him. Both are absurd, for then the original sentence would read: He kisses She or Him kisses her

The simple explanation is that we are dealing with two different cases: Nominative and Accusative.

He is the doer. He kisses.

She is the object. He kisses her.

Therefore, if the answer is: He kisses her, one part of the question is: Who kisses her? The other part of the question is: Whom does he kiss?

Who would want to argue with whom?


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    • profile image

      hewwy 6 years ago

      What? For a human, it is quite easy to figure out what was actually meant ("he," "she," "him," and "her"). It's trivial, really. I don't see where "whom" is necessary at all (despite your examples).

    • profile image

      Chris 7 years ago

      While I agree that distortion of a language is sad, I disagree with your statement about how languages evolve. It is not a conscious effort by the people. It is small mistakes; usage of a word other than intended; new creations on the fly; that change the language. Exactly as evolution occurs. You can resist it, maybe even should; but it will change and you can not stop it.

    • vaidy19 profile image

      vaidy19 7 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the comment. 'Rant' is a wrong take on my essay. As I have said, I am sad and not angry at all. In my dictionary, any mistake in the use of a language, however egregious, is just a reflection of how deep or shallow the practitioner's interest is in the language.

      For example, you say in your comment: Its okay, languages evolve. The first word needs an apostrophe - 'It's okay' is correct. But then you could say that it is all right (or alright as some might write it!).

      Languages cannot and do not evolve as the Earth or the Universe does. It is up to us, the users, to enjoy its beauty and the facility it offers us to express ourselves in a manner that exemplifies that beauty. To those to whom - certainly NOT WHO - the beauty is invisible or of no consequence, I have nothing to say.

      When native speakers make mistakes, they deserve to be ignored, if not condemned, but certainly do not deserve to be endorsed or followed. When they cannot contribute positively, they have no right to mutilate what others have painstakingly constructed.

      One can spell anyway one wants, speak and write anyway - all that is fine. Permit me to ask you something: Can you type in a Password, spelling it in your own way, randomly, changing a character or two, and expect to access a web address?


    • profile image

      Michael 7 years ago

      The fact that you point out in your rant, about it being mostly native speakers that make this mistake, makes it clear that "whom" is in fact dying. Few people use it correctly anymore. I cannot think of an example when somebody would be confused by by the use who instead of whom. Its okay, languages evolve.

    • vaidy19 profile image

      vaidy19 7 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi Tony,

      It is the conviction with which you write about the way a language should be used that emboldened me to point out the who-whom thing. I usually stay away from making such comments. I am very happy that you have graciously acknowledged your agreement, with thanks, to boot.

      I should begin to acquaint myself with Mr Pinker whom you so warmly refer to.

      It's a pleasure to hear from you. Allow me to borrow your sign-off.

      Love and Peace



    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Stephen Pinker would disagree with you but I don't! In spite of the non-use of "whom" on my profile page which perhaps I will change, thanks to your comment.

      Love and peace


    • vaidy19 profile image

      vaidy19 9 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi Peggy,

      A telling example to drive the point home. These little words are, in a sense, emotional and get embedded in us as we begin to learn a language. There is practically no thinking involved and their use constitutes reflex action. By the same logic, it appears that those who do not use these words right and tend to mix them up most probably never learnt them right early on, and so find it hard to shake off the habit.


    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Ernest Hemmingway would sound just a little silly with who replacing whom. I would agree with your assessment.......few people correctly use the word "whom" when they speak or write.

    • vaidy19 profile image

      vaidy19 10 years ago from Chennai, India

      Thanks Zsuzsy.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      It is Vaidy, WHOM we should thank for a great HUB.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Great hub. I look forward to reading more of your grammar hubs! Welcome to HubPages!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      I sorely miss 'whom' when people put 'who' after 'to:' to wit, 'to whom!'