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When to Use "I" and "Me" and "Who" and "Whom": The Naughty Grammarian Explains

Updated on February 25, 2017
CatherineGiordano profile image

Catherine Giordano, aka "The Naughty Grammarian," has had her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published in books and periodicals.

The Naughty Grammarian tackles a few confusing points of English usage.

The Naughty Grammarian instructs on the finer points of English usage, points either never learned or long ago forgotten. This lesson is about the confusion between the words perspective and prospective, confusion about the use of "I" and "me", and the confusion about the use of "who" and "whom" and "whoever" and "whomever."

Is it "I" or "Me?" Is it "Who" or "Whom?"

Are you confused about when to use "I" and "Me"; when to use "Who" and "Whom?"
Are you confused about when to use "I" and "Me"; when to use "Who" and "Whom?" | Source

When to Use “I” or “Me”

“I” is a pronoun used as a subject. “Me” is a pronoun used as an object of a verb or a preposition.

Most people are not confused about “I” and “me” when there is only one subject.

I want a kiss. [No one, at least no one over the age of three, ever says “Me want a kiss.”]

Give me a kiss. [No one, not even toddlers, ever says “Give I a kiss.")

“For the life of me, I will never understand you,” Melanie cried. [There’s no inclination to reverse the “I” and “me” in this sentence.]

"I" is the Subject; "Me" is the Object.

"I" is the subject, "Me" is the object.
"I" is the subject, "Me" is the object. | Source

A Simple Test to Decide When to Use "I" and "Me"

The confusion between "I" and "me" seems to arise when there is a compound subject. Is it “Doug and I” or “Doug and me”?

The Rephrase-the-Sentence-Without-the-Other-Subject Test

There is a simple test to help you get this right. Just remove the second subject ad rewrite the sentence.

“Doug and I are engaged,” Melanie said triumphantly. [“I“ is the subject and “I am engaged” sounds right.]

Everyone should give Doug and me a hug,” Melanie said. [“Me” is the object of the verb “give” and “give me a hug” sounds right.]

“If you are talking about Doug and me, I hope you are saying something nice,” Melanie said. [“About” is a preposition and “me” is the object..“If you are talking about me” sounds right.]

The entire cheer-leading squad and I are in love with Doug. ["I"” is the subject and “I am in love with Doug” sounds right.]

The wedding planner will meet with Doug and me. [“Me” is the object of the preposition “with” and “The wedding planner will meet with me” sounds right.]

When to use "Who" and "Whom"

ust as with “I” and “me”, the correct usage of “who” and “whom” depends on whether the pronouns are standing in for the subject or the object.

Who is for subjects.

Whom is for objects--direct objects, indirect objects, objectives of prepositions and objectives of infinitives.

Melanie asked, "Who wants to kiss me? ("Who is the subject, the one doing the kissing.).

"Whom did Doug kiss?" (Whom is the object, the person Doug kissed.).

“Whoever” and” whomever” follow the same rules as "who" and "whom."

"Who" is the Subject; "Whom" is the Object

"Who" is used for subjects; "whom" is used for objects.
"Who" is used for subjects; "whom" is used for objects. | Source

A Few Tests to Decide When to Use "Who" and "Whom"

Just as with “I” and “me”, the correct usage of “who” and “whom” depends on whether the p

The Rephrase-the-Sentence Test for statements

If it is not clear to you what is the subject and what is the object, you can use the “he/him” test. (Or the she/her test. Miss Grammers is not sexist.) You can try rephrasing the sentence using “he” and “him” to see which sounds right. If “he” sounds right, you have a subject and you should use “who.” If “him” sounds right, you have an object and you should use “whom.”

Who wants to kiss me?” Melanie asked. [“He wants to kiss me.” sounds right, so I need a subject and I use “who.”]

"Whom did Doug Kiss?" ("Doug kissed her." sounds right, so I need an object and I use "whom.")

“I will marry whomever I please,” Melanie shouted. [I will marry him.” sounds right, so I need an object and I use “whomever.”]

Whoever wants the flowers, raise your hand. [“He wants the flowers.” sounds right, so I need a subject and I use “who.”].

I will give the flowers to whomever wants them. [“I will give the flowers to him” sounds right, so I need an object and I use “whomever”]


The Rephrase-the-Sentence Test for questions

Questions can be rephrased as a statement to see if “he” or “him” sounds right.

To whom shall I give the flowers? [“Give the flowers to him.” sounds right, so I chose "whom."]

Who wants the flowers? [“He wants the flowers.” sounds right, so I chose "who."]


The Match-the-Verbs Test

It gets a little more complicated when who/whom is part of a clause. You will need to determine the subject of the clause. Here is a trick to help you do that.

One way to do this is to look at each verb which has a tense (present, present continuous, future, etc.; ignore infinitives) in the sentence and determine which verb goes with which subject. If you have a verb left over, then that verb needs a subject and you will use “who.”

I am asking (who/whom) wants the flowers. [“I” is the subject of “asking”, and wants does not have a subject, therefore “who” must be the subject of ”wants.”’ ] The correct sentence is: I am asking WHO wants the flowers.

I am asking to (who/whom) I should give the flowers. [The first “I” is the subject of “asking”, the second “I” is the subject of “should give.” There are no verbs left, so “whom” must be the object of the preposition “to.”] The correct sentence is: I am asking to WHOM I should give the flowers.

When you use this technique you have to make sure you include implied subjects, like in the sentence below.

Ask (whoever/whomever) takes the flowers to give them to Melanie. [In this sentence, the word “you” is implied –“You ask“--and “you” Is the subject of the verb “ask." “Takes" needs a subject and that subject is “whoever”. “To give” is an infinitive and is ignored. The correct sentence is: Ask WHOEVER takes the flowers to give them to Melanie.


The If-All-Else-Fails Test

Miss Grammers will now give you permission to just go ahead and do what you want. If you have tried the above tests and you are still not sure whether it is "who" or "whom" say the sentence aloud and go with whichever sounds best to your ears. If you get it wrong, probably no one else will even notice because no one else knows the correct way either. But don't tell anyone Miss Grammers said that.

The Naughty Grammarian

The Naughty Grammarian for once has nothing to say.
The Naughty Grammarian for once has nothing to say. | Source

Who is The Naughty Grammarian?

Miss Grammers is feeling quite exhausted right now. It is not easy to tease out "who" from "whom" and explain it to one and all. Whoever thinks this is easy should try it sometime.

In her current state of mind, Miss Grammers feels her prospective answer might seem to be lacking in perspective.The only response to the question that Miss Grammers wishes to give at this moment is “Whoever wants to know more about me and my interests, can read some of the other The Naughty Grammarian posts.Doug and Melanie and I are done in, and we have nothing more to say to whomever might wish to inquire.

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© 2014 Catherine Giordano

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    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Some useful tips, guidelines and information, thank you. Who and whom have been battling it out for years! In my experience, whom is losing ground rapidly. In normal everyday conversation I don't hear it that much, people seem to accept who when whom should be the word - but it's nice to know whom is still alive and kicking.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I'm so glad you're doing this series. So many people are confused over all of the above. I like the way you have your regular characters with Miss Grammers; it keeps the flow.

      There are of course those who argue that if words are not in everyday use then they're out of date. I argue that, especially if writing, we need to keep basic grammar and correct usage because meaning can otherwise be lost.

      Your friendly and humorous approach keeps the reader engaged and, let's face it, that's not easy to do with grammar! Always good to read your hubs.

      Ann

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is very interesting and educative at the same time. Though English is not my mother tongue, I have been an English teacher. And I remember students getting confused in using these words.

      Useful, educative and informative hub! Voted up and pinned on my education board.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Chit: English is sometimes a ridiculous language. Why should it matter if we say who or whom? I had a request to do who and who so I did it.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      chef and annart: Thank you for your comments. In spoken English, who is practically acceptable even where whom is correct. However, the bar is higher for written English. Also if you train your ear through your writing, you are more likely to get it right when spoken.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 2 years ago from Kansas

      Thanks. Who and Whom does get me sometimes.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks Pawpa. Who and whom is the mequivalent of a tongue twister.

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Another good one. This one gets so many friends of mine, it's ridiculous.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Goatfury: Thank you for the comment. I'm sure I am as guilty as your friends . I'm glad Miss Grammers prodded me to study this.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I and me are so often confused in writing sentences. You defined their role well. I loved your quiz and scored high honors. Thanks for the education today.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks so much for taking a look. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Sandeep Murmu profile image

      sandeep murmu 2 years ago from Dhanbad

      Thanks for clearing I and me. Really, I had not thought about it.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you Sandeep for your comment. I often hear and even see this done wrong.

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