Pronouns and Case
Who Versus Whom (or Should I Just Shoot Myself Now?)
Contemporary writer and humorist Calvin Trillin once claimed, “Whom is a word invented to make everyone sound like a butler. Nobody who is not a butler has ever said it out loud without feeling just a little bit weird.”
Trillin isn't alone in his frustration with who/whom. More than half a century ago, a professor named Arthur H. Weston voiced his feelings over who/whom this way:
Quoth the Maven
Remember, the main purpose of language is communication. Good grammar is “that language which creates the least discomfort among the largest number of participants.” (Robert Pooley)
Don't get scared by who/whom in questions. At the beginning of a question, use who if the question is about the subject or whom if the question is about the object.
No one will argue that who and whom are the most troublesome pronouns in English. Anyone who has ever grappled with who and whom might use stronger language than that. Here are some reasons why who/whom are so perplexing:
We can't do much about the national debt, frown lines, or those Mets, but we can straighten out who/whom use. Even though I discussed who/whom earlier in this section, these little words cause such distress that they deserve their own subsection. Let's start by looking back at our pronoun-use chart for a moment.
This Hurts You More Than It Hurts Me
Only three itty-bitty rules to know for who/whom:
I Dare You
The proof is in the pudding, or something like that. Take your best shot with these questions. Circle who or whom in each sentence.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.