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Who vs. Whom

Updated on July 25, 2013

When should you use "who" and when should you use "whom" in a sentence?

There is a simple trick to knowing the difference between who and whom. All you have to do is answer your question or restate the sentence using "he" or "him". This trick also works with whoever and whomever!

he = who/whoever

him = whom/whomever

Whom

Whom is never used as the subject of a verb. It is the object form of a pronoun.

Who

Who is always used as the subject of the verb.

Examples of "whom"

  • For whom did you vote?

I voted for him. Therefore, whom is correct.

  • With whom do you sail?

I sail with him. Therefore, whom is correct.

  • Whom should I ask about the discount?

You should ask him about the discount.

  • You may go with whomever you choose.

I want to go with him.

Examples of "who"

  • Who went to the circus?

He went to the circus. Therefore, who is correct.

  • We all know who won the game for the team.

He won the game for the team, Therefore, who is correct.

  • Corie knows who made the cake.

He made the cake. Therefore, who is correct.

  • Whoever said that you couldn't dance?

He said that I couldn't dance.

Thoughts, Comments, Questions?

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    • profile image

      Will 3 years ago

      So I picked my daughter up the other day from daycare. My daughter told me "her hit me!" Pointing vigorously at the young

      lady the teacher announced "Actually darling it's she hit me." For some reason I agree with my daughter! Am I wrong in proper English grammar?

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Herman, that sentence sounds fine. :)

    • profile image

      herman 4 years ago

      is it correct to say 'your support will help me end the year on a high note?'

    • profile image

      pbot 5 years ago

      Times are changing. Proper English has not always been proper and will continue to change over time. This is evident with the rise of texting.

    • profile image

      Kristen 5 years ago

      Thank you for your explanation and examples!

      For some reason I can't get my brain to retain any of the actual grammatical terms and definitions that help explain which 'version' of a word to use. Even still I am oddly obsessive about using words correctly. I won't even use the word if I think I could be wrong.

      Your tip for proper use of these two words is perfect for me! I believe it's actually the first I've read that I fully understood. I love words and so I greatly appreciate this information! I can't wait to confidently use 'whom' in conversation now since I've always avoided it or unfortunately spoken incorrectly.

    • profile image

      MaxGax 5 years ago

      Your sentence sounds like a poor translation from German. You can't simply have "the" all on its own. Here are some alternatives.

      The person from whom I sought help has let me down.

      The person whose help I was seeking has let me down.

      The person who I was hoping would help me has let me down.

    • profile image

      sharon 5 years ago

      Please check if this sentence is grammatically correct.

      Checking to see if whom is used correctly.

      The from whom I looked for help has failed me.

    • profile image

      Lisa 5 years ago

      My little girl said "I made him" talking about a girl.She is 3 years when will she use the correct terminology-her?

    • profile image

      Elizabeth 5 years ago

      What about when to use "who" or "and who"?

    • profile image

      MaxGax 6 years ago

      In the interesting example "The person who I thought was the senator turned out to be a television newscaster." "who" is actually the subject of "was the senator". The verb "think" is a verb of interpolation. You can prove this with the sentence "The person whom I held to be the senator turned out to be a television newscaster."

    • profile image

      im so confused! 6 years ago

      help me i don't get it at all!

    • profile image

      rubigenous 6 years ago

      Oh, so sad that it's (it has) been published here for almost 2 years without correction.

      'Jerry' noted: "My gosh! "It's" means it is or its was! "Its" is the possessive case."

      Jerry! Please note that the apostrophe version is a contraction of 'it is' or 'it has', not 'it was'.

      Or, as I like to tell people:

      It's "it's" when it isn't "its". :-)

      (Quantum Physics meets English Grammar :-)

      Cheers!

    • profile image

      Awesome 6 years ago

      Hi

      I like grammar

    • profile image

      Fred 6 years ago

      Hi Ralph. you are so wrong about your comment regarding Spanish "No hay que ensenar orthographia en las escuelas..." Let me tell you that I studied Spanish grammar since grade 3 until grade 11 (9 years), and believe me that many people never learned it. Spanish is not different than in English in terms of grammar and it is not as easy as many people think. I would say that for Spanish speakers English pronunciation is more difficult than English grammar, and for English speakers learning Spanish is the opposite: easier to pronounce, more difficult in terms of grammar.

    • profile image

      Mr. Fastidious 6 years ago

      Isn't "Who am I?" kind of like a predicate nominative rather than an accusative? And if StuartJ still thinks "her hit he" is ever going to find its way into everyday conversation through usage, after 4 years of reflection on the matter, I'm going to get on his case.

    • profile image

      Mr. Fastidious 6 years ago

      Tell Ralph that "ph" changes to "f" for Spanish spelling and that the names of languages are not capitalized.

      We are finally catching up to the European languages in our use of "there's" for both singular and plural, at least in spoken language. In French, German and Spanish there's only one word or expression. "There are" must be too long or cumbersome and therefore "there's" is more efficient.

      As for the 'who vs whom' rule, it seems very stilted if we use whom to replace a direct object, as in "Whom do you love?" However, it just sounds intelligent to say, "To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?" instead of, "Whom am I speaking to?" Besides, a preposition is something we should never end a sentence with. As for Bo Diddly, he didn't know or care diddly about grammar, but whom cares?

    • profile image

      cuong & ny 6 years ago

      as was asked before, is this question correct: "who did you vote for?"

    • profile image

      Jose M. Blanco 6 years ago

      Michelle, it seems extreme, a bit too "descriptivist" for my tastes, to say that "English is really whatever is commonly used." Over the long run, yes. But in practical terms, teachers, editors, etc. must serve work as a conservative, "prescriptivist" force in language.

    • profile image

      Steff 6 years ago

      Please, no "s" on the word anyway.

      Since when is it "anyway"? It's never anywhos, anyhows??

    • profile image

      Michelle 6 years ago

      To correct anub (sorry) -

      If you are going by the he/him rule, it would be 'Whom am I?', as 'whom' is replacing 'me' (both in accusative case - object).

      HOWEVER, Lydia, you have brought up a good point - 'Whom am I?' sounds odd. And it is odd. It is therefore ungrammatical. Along with the fact that so many native English speakers have to ask how to use it, this shows that it is not a natural, instinctive part of the grammar. In fact it is governed by something called a 'Grammatical Virus' - something extra to the grammar that we are told to say, but for which the rules don't always work. There is a good article on this called "The who/whom puzzle" for any linguists.

      Also, it is interesting that there were no replies by the author to the very relevant points that English is really whatever is commonly used. Furthermore, in most situations 'who' can be used equally well as 'whom', so you really don't need to bother with it.

      I do personally find it annoying though when I see 'whom' used in the wrong context, so fair enough.

    • profile image

      anub 6 years ago

      @Lydia, I think...:

      I am myself. 'myself', in this case, is the object. Pretend the object is me instead. I am me. Who am I? I am me. I is a pronoun, like him and her. To answer 'Whom am I?', you would say 'I am I'. In this case, I'm using the second I as an object (incorrect) because that is our strategy in choosing between who & whom (using the pronouns him/her). Anyway, 'I am I' wouldn't work, so 'Who am I?' is the correct way to ask whom you are. ;D

    • profile image

      anub 6 years ago

      "Who is the newscaster?"

      He is the newscaster.

      "Whom is the newscaster?"

      The newscaster is him.

      I know the latter is wrong, but I always confuse them anyway, because I make the question/answer backwards... Could you help? x3

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      Lydia 7 years ago

      What about a question like, "who am I?" That confuses me. Could it be, "whom am I?" I don't think so but, I'm not too sure.

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      Ann 7 years ago

      From a fellow kiwi. I have just happened upon this site & immediately picked up on Jerry's post of 5 months ago (3 posts back), & had to agree with him. But I reckon you knew that already. I know that often in haste, mistakes slip in, don't they? I do it all the time, and I'm sure I have made heaps of grammatical & other errors in this post alone and will see them after I have clicked 'post comment'. I'm not an English teacher so don't really care, but still like to know basics so that I can help my children & grandchildren. See ya.

    • profile image

      Heath 8 years ago

      How would you use the substitution in this case: Could you forward me the contact information of the attorney, whom you mentioned, might be able to offer pro bono legal services?

      Tiffany, the commas around 'whom you mentioned' are needless - and 'whom can be left out entirely:

      Could you forward me the contact information of the attorney you mentioned might be able to offer pro bono legal services?

    • profile image

      harsha 8 years ago

      Good Article Robin. Hits the point directly.

    • profile image

      Tiffani 8 years ago

      How would you use the substitution in this case: Could you forward me the contact information of the attorney, whom you mentioned, might be able to offer pro bono legal services?

    • profile image

      Jerry 8 years ago

      The top post says:

      That trick seems a bit simplified to me. What about an example like this one: "Assign that task to Whomever/Whoever is available." Here the correct answer is "whoever" because it's not the pronoun's role in the sentence as a whole that matters, but it's role in it's own clause. So "whoever" here is the subject of "is".

      My gosh! "It's" means it is or its was! "Its" is the possessive case.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Hi Robin. I just wandered back here to brush up on my who or whom usage. I need a reminder now and then. Can't help commenting on Kathy's question. To clarify the "sentence" you offer, Kathy, it is what is called in English "illiterate."

    • profile image

      Kathy 8 years ago

      Oh dear that didn't come out right.

      Repeat:

      Help!!!

      I'm looking for clarification in the following sentence.

      "She sees the parent and their children for who she knows them to be, not by who they are being."

    • profile image

      Dan 8 years ago

      A big thanks for the who/whom trick. I have referenced numerous grammar texts on this subject, but found that the level of detail in such reference manuals was impeding my ability to comprehend the actual rules regarding the usage of who vs whom.

      Thanks to this hub, I can now properly use who/whom in my entrance essay that is a required portion of my application to graduate school. Who would've thunked it? ( or is it whom would have thunked it???) Well, back to the hub for further study....

    • profile image

      Cuong 8 years ago

      So comparing to whom's example, is it wrong to say "Who did you vote for?" It still sounds good, doesn't it?

    • profile image

      IGHOR 8 years ago

      EAE MANO LOPA LIMPEZA?

      THE AMO LINDOOOOOOOO

    • profile image

      IGHOR 8 years ago

      MANO ESSA PARADA É MUITO IMBAÇADA, MAS COM ESTUDO DÁ PRA LEVAR COM CERTEZA MANO, É NOIS NA FITA VÉI ;D

    • profile image

      Juan 8 years ago

      I have a doubt, is it correct the following frase? I do not know with whom I should speak

      Thank you for your help

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      One of the most frequent mistakes. I still have trouble with it after looking it up many times!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for the cute who/whom trick. I always have trouble with these tricky English constructions even after I look them up in a reference book -- or now on the computer. I don't know about you, but speaking grammatically correct English often sounds stilted when I'm speaking to my friends and "associates" (an example of stilted language.) In my opinion, changes in language must be made over a relatively long period of time if we expect to communicate effectively.

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      Dennis Clark 9 years ago

      I rarely see the word "enable" used these days. "Allow" is overwhelmingly used instead, even in the news media. Has constant misuse changed the gammar rules for allow and enable?

      Thanks.

    • profile image

      Matt 9 years ago

      So is Bo Diddley right when he asks "Who Do You Love?"

      Or should he have said "Whom do you love?"

    • topstuff profile image

      topstuff 9 years ago

      For whom did you vote.i often use only whom rather than who.Is it wrong. i will come again to check the reply.One more thing, see this sentence ..From where you bought this book.Where did you buy this book.what's the difference. thanks

    • profile image

      CMH 9 years ago

      Robin,

      What about when the subject is plural rather than singular? Example: They supported the fundraiser. So would the correct conversion to who/whom be, "who supported the fundraiser?" How dies that work? Any tips would be helpful. Thanks for your site.

      CMH

    • profile image

      ny 9 years ago

      can i use " Who did you vote for?" ?

    • profile image

      Raj 9 years ago

      In response to the reality that the proper use of grammar is declining to the point of blurring the distinctions, I can't help but quote Churchill:

      "That is something up with which I will not put!"

    • profile image

      Alec 9 years ago

      Lori,

      It's the second one. "He had been previously uncommunicative." You are replacing the who with he, not client liasons with him.

    • profile image

      lori 9 years ago

      Maby I am making this more difficult than it really is but it the following sentence:

      I Advanced communications with client liaisons who had previously been uncommunicative.

      Would the question be:

      "I advanced communications with him?" -OR-

      "He had been previously uncommunicative?"

      in order to figure out if who or whom should be used? It is critical that I get this correct, as I am using this sentence in my resume!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      I think, 'Whom does that refer to?' or 'To whom does that refer?' are both right. But you have to say 'whom' not 'who.'

    • profile image

      Andy 9 years ago

      Would it be incorrect to say, "Who is that referring to?" or do you need always have to say, "To whom is that referring?"?

    • profile image

      Jordan Q 9 years ago

      Actually, StuartJ, "Her hit he" means that the boy hit the girl. Since we have these cases, it means we are free to change word order around in poetry and what have you. Of course, such flipping of the usual syntax is rare, but, even in modern English, "Her hit he" and "He hit her" do mean the same thing, not different things. And of course, even in modern English, "Her hit he" and "She hit him" do really mean different things. In the latter, as we would agree, the girl is doing the hitting, and in the former, it is the boy, not the girl, who is laying the smack down.

      If we eliminated cases we wouldn't necessarily have problems with ambiguity, but we would lose some of the freedom we have with where we want to place words in a sentence.

    • profile image

      mj 9 years ago

      Read "The Mother Tongue" by Bill Bryson. It's a really great history lesson on the English language, and, as one comment already pointed out, it correctly addresses the fact that the English language continues to evolve. Many arbitrary grammatical rules are just that - arbirtrary.

    • profile image

      Judy 9 years ago

      I think "whom to call list" is grammatically accurate but when one googles, one finds just as many, if not more, instances where people use 'who to call list' . Does this mean the latter is now the norm and therefore acceptable usage?

    • profile image

      Ponta 9 years ago

      Oh thank you so much for this clarification piece. The who/whom thing has been killing my lately, and I'm glad to see that there is such an easy trick to remembering which one to use. This is yet another step in perfecting my grammar! :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      I learnt the usage of who/whom not only from the hub, but also from the comments. Good show, friends!

    • vaidy19 profile image

      vaidy19 9 years ago from Chennai, India

      What a coincidence! I just posted a Hub on WHOM before I chanced to read your Hubs. Before I read all your Hubs at leisure, I thought I would acknowledge your Hub and say Hello. I am just a few weeks in here, and only today beginning to get a few Hubs done. I appreciate your effort, for it is a service to many. Keep it up! I am a professional writer specialising in Corporate Communication. I have just begun to put together ome short stories and little poems.

    • profile image

      jerezano 9 years ago

      Hello robin: You aaked: >>I learned many of the English rules from studying Spanish. I wonder if those who speak more than one language are more aware of grammar in their native tongue. What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

      Quit wondering. You are definitely right. When I started learning Spanish and then teaching English I found that learning Spanish not only makes one more aware of how we use English but also why we use it the way we do. And Grammar is nothing more than an explanation of how the majority of us use English or Spanish or French. Grammar is not a set of rules, it is a compendium of what the majority of us are speaking

      jerezano.

    • profile image

      Matt Prater 9 years ago

      Good contribution.

      In response to some of the comments, let me say that I believe that language is a means to an end. If enough people use a word incorrectly, it is no longer incorrect to use that word as such. If someone knows an obscure rule, and seeks to employ that rule only for the sake of propagation of the rule, while a majority does not use that rule, it is that person who is wrong, imho.

      Thanks,

      Matt

    • reash profile image

      reash 9 years ago

      Hi

      Great hub. I like hubs that are giving away knowledge to other hubbers. It is sad that people nowadays don't care about their grammar. You should create more hubs like this.

    • profile image

      graff 9 years ago

      hi, I think this is a nice way to learn English. But you should add an example like this one:

      "The man who/whom you met was my brother" In this sentence, if you want a formal sentence you shod say whom. However, they are both correct.

    • profile image

      Kowgirl 9 years ago

      Which is used with they or them, like in this part of a sentence whoever/whomever they may be? This is great. I too have a hubpage about misused words. Was just about to add this (who, whom) to my hubpage when I saw yours. Great way to teach the kids, just keep it simple so they can understand..

    • profile image

      Clive 9 years ago

      Yes it's simplified but your little 'he,him' trick is just what my 11 year old will understand - thanks

    • profile image

      mushi 9 years ago

      I'm a teacher in Japan, and your site has been helpful for when I need a quick reference, so thanks!

      I've studied French, Italian, Japanese, Tibetan, and a little Nepali and Hindi. I definitely became more aware of English grammar rules after I studied more languages, but I also had an awesome English teacher my freshman year of high school, so I really owe it to both. My friends that have studied other languages also tend to have pretty good grammar, but they don't always choose to use it. You mentioned that a lot of people that are highly educated use incorrect grammar, but I think that that is more a reflection of how adaptable the English language is. I have about 4 or 5 different ways that I use English, depending on the situation. If I'm talking with friends or sending a text, I don't use "proper" English grammar, but I do recognize that my grammar is incorrect. I just don't care, and I know that my listener will understand me even if I'm lazy. My favorite thing about the English language is that there are so many variations of it. There really isn't a "proper" English language anymore. Unfortunately, countries were colonized and forced to use English, but every single country adapted it to their culture in a different way. There's different slang, there are slight variations in what is "acceptable" grammar, there are different pronunciations and spelling. But it's still undeniably English. I'm sure it's frustrating for new learners of English to have so many rules regularly broken, but, on the other hand, it means that the language is more flexible, too.

    • profile image

      German 9 years ago

      Hi. Is this sentence correct?. Omar will talk about his girlfriend with whomever asks him.

      With is a preposition. So whomever is ok.

      Are you agree?. Thanks.

    • profile image

      German 9 years ago

      Wonderful site.!!. I am learning english grammar. I fell so good that to know ypur web. Excellent.

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 9 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Cyber Coyote,

      I think you are correct about the English language being dynamic. It's no wonder second language learners have such a difficult time. I have had disagreements on a few of my topics, particularly farther vs. further. I always prefer to err on the side of being more specific and finding distinctions in meaning/spelling. Thanks for the comment!

    • Robin profile image
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      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Ezra,

      "He turned out to be a television newscaster." He could be substituted in the sentence, so "who" is correct, e.g., the person who I thought was the senator turned out to be a television newscaster. (He/who and him/whom) Thanks!

    • profile image

      Ezra Ginder 10 years ago

      How do you determine who/whom in the following sentence: The person who/whom I thought was the senator turned out to be a television newscaster? I originally thought it was whom, but now I am leaning toward who. How would you substitute he/him in this sentence?

    • profile image

      Hank 10 years ago

      Thanks for your post! It's good to be broad-minded.

    • optimizer profile image

      optimizer 10 years ago

      Thanks for this useful info. =)

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, Patricia! I'm so glad my hubs are useful. Cheers!

    • profile image

      Patricia Kyte 10 years ago

      Hi Robin,

      This is a great site. Your descriptions of shen to use who/whom was pointed out in our On-line English class by another student who went searching for directions. Good for her and you too!

      Patricia

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, FreeBird! I'm glad it helped! Best wishes, Robin

    • profile image

      FreeBird 10 years ago

      Thanks Robin for the useful information. I'm awful when it comes to helping my 10 year old with his Language Arts homework. I will bookmark your page for future reference. Thanks!

    • Robin profile image
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      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Chitra, thanks for the comment!   "Might" and "maybe" are often used interchangeably to indicate a probability or possiblility.  However, "may" or "maybe" indicates a more likely possibility than "might".  Hope this helps. ;)

    • profile image

      chitra 10 years ago

      hi robin,

      Your explanations are excellent.I'm inspired.My question is "How and Where to use 'Might' and 'Maybe' in a sentence?

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Yes! You are correct. You can use the he/him substitution for whoever and whomever as well. I'm glad you found the hub useful! Robin

    • profile image

      Rene 10 years ago

      I appreciate your site, Robin. As for the "Assign that task to Whomever/Whoever is available" topic, before I read the answer, I applied the he/him theory, and it worked for that, too.

      Who is available? He is.

    • Cyber Coyote profile image

      Cyber Coyote 10 years ago

      Hi Robin,

      It's natural to feel that "someone" is in charge of English. It is the case for some languages, but no one controls English. English is simply the language that English speaking people use. The key word is "use". If useage changes, well then English has changed -- grammar teachers not withstanding. :-) BTW, my best grammar teacher was a Sergeant who taught a course for the US Army. Seriously.

    • Robin profile image
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      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for your comments StuartJ. I suppose my simplicity comes from being a teacher. I appreciate your additions to the hubs! I'm starting to get quite a bit of traffic from Yahoo. I show up in the top results for many grammar questions. I'm glad they can help.

    • StuartJ profile image

      StuartJ 10 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Hi Robin,

      I do take your point about simplicity. If you go into too much detail about the more complicated aspects of everything you will lose your audience. I do like your hubs and I'm sure they will be useful to many people. They are very clear and readable too.

    • StuartJ profile image

      StuartJ 10 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Hi Ralph,

      Your comment about the usage of pronouns declining to the point of "blurring the distinctions" is interesting. I believe this is true but that it is also inevitable because it is part of a major change that has taken place in the English language. Take the explanation, say, that "whom" is the objective case of "who". To someone whose native language is German, this makes a lot of sense, but to most English speakers it seems to be a purely academic distinction.

      The fact is that English is no longer a case based language -- English, although it once used cases, now uses word order and prepositions to distinquish between the subject and the object, or the doer and the doee. And since nouns are no longer inflected or altered to indicate case, the different cases of pronouns are really no longer necessary. For example, if we say "Jane hit John", it is the word order, not the case of the nouns, that tells us who is the subject and who is the object. Similarly, since "She hit him", and "Her hit he", (despite the latter being bad grammar) mean the same thing, do we need the different cases of pronouns at all? I think not, and that eventually they will disappear.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 10 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Es posible. Pero creo que todos los lenguajes cambian.

      Espanol es mas regular y sencillo que Ingles. No hay que ensenar orthographia en las escuelas..

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Ralph, that is probably true. It's very sad. It's amazing how many highly educated people are incorrect in their grammar. Do you think this is true of those who speak other languages? I learned many of the English rules from studying Spanish. I wonder if those who speak more than one language are more aware of grammar in their native tongue. What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 10 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      It seems to me that correct usage of pronouns is declining almost to the point of blurring the distinctions.

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      The purpose of these hubs is to make grammar as simple as possible. I think the problem most people have with grammar is it becomes too complicated, and they give up on being correct. Good feedback, I was going to add whoever and whomever to this hub. Once again, you need to understand who and whom to understand whoever and whomever. Thanks for the comments!

    • StuartJ profile image

      StuartJ 10 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      That trick seems a bit simplified to me. What about an example like this one:

      "Assign that task to Whomever/Whoever is available."

      Here the correct answer is "whoever" because it's not the pronoun's role in the sentence as a whole that matters, but it's role in it's own clause. So "whoever" here is the subject of "is".

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