When to Use "I" and "Me" and "Who" and "Whom": The Naughty Grammarian Explains
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?"
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.
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
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.
Grammar can be very confusing. Here is a book that can help.
The Naughty Grammarian
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