Difference Between Who and Whom

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: June 06, 2023

       

Difference Between Who and Whom

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Introduction

Even native English speakers can struggle to distinguish between the correct usage of certain phrases and components of speech in a sentence due to the complexity and ambiguity of English grammar rules. In English, numerous words can be used interchangeably without changing the context of the statement, but on sometimes, this word flipping also alters the phrasing and overall meaning of the sentence. To prevent such mistakes, one should be informed of the implications of the phrases they employ. Out of some of the similar words that can cause such confusion, in this article we will discuss the usage of the words ‘Who’ and ‘Whom’. Who and whom are two pronouns that are essential for creating inquiries and declarations, but their use frequently causes misunderstandings. When requesting details about a person or group of individuals, the pronouns "who" and "whom" are commonly used as interrogative pronouns. While using these words it is important to identify the subject and object in the sentence, as their usage depends on them. By the end of this article, you will have a thorough understanding of the distinctions between who and whom, enabling you to communicate successfully in a variety of language situations.

When a person's name is being referred to or which person or people are being mentioned, the pronoun "who" is used especially because it serves as the subject or object of a verb in question. It is used for people rather than for things.

For Ex-

  • Who stole all the mangoes from the garden?              
  • Who wants to eat sandwiches?              
  • Who is there at the front door?

On the other hand, “whom” fulfills one or both of these functions as the object of a verb. Furthermore, the pronoun "whom" is frequently used in questions, especially when it follows a preposition or is the object of a verb.

For Ex-

  • With whom are you going?               
  • The student whom I was waiting for came late so I left.              
  • To whom did you submit the assignments?   

Who vs Whom

The key difference to memorize between ‘Who’ and ‘Whom’ is that the former is used to refer to the subject of the verb in an expression whereas the latter pronoun is used to refer to a verb’s object or the object of a preposition. We use ‘who’ to describe an individual whereas ‘whom’ is used to describe the object or the individual that receives the action.

For Ex-

  • Who is your favorite celebrity?              
  • Who was she talking about?              
  • A child who is not focused won’t be able to achieve his goals.

For Ex-

  • To whom are you sending these gift parcels?             
  • Two of my friends visited the museum, one of whom is an art enthusiast.              
  • Whom did you visit last week during the college holidays?

Difference between Who and Whom in Tabular form

Parameters of comparisonWhoWhom
Definition‘Who’ is a pronoun that refers to the specific individual enacting an action.‘Whom’ is an interrogative pronoun used to describe the recipient of the action
Used asIt is used as a subjective pronoun in a sentence.It is used as an objective pronoun in a sentence.
Used with pronounsIt is used with the pronouns- I, he, she, and they.It is used with the pronouns- me, him, her, and them.
Used in context as‘Who’ is commonly used in an informal context.‘Whom’ is used more in a formal context while writing.
ExamplesWho are you referring to?
Who is present at the shop?
Is there anyone who likes apple juice?
Who invited you to this party?
Who are you speaking to?
With whom do you want to talk?
To whom did you give the flower?
To whom am I speaking?
This is my friend whom I told you about.
Richa, with whom I work is an artist.

What does ‘Who’ mean?

When referring to individuals rather than things or objects, we employ the phrase ‘Who’ in English to inquire about the subject of the action. A subject is someone who performs an action; hence the subject is the person who carried out the action in question. It is a type of interrogative pronoun mainly used to describe the subjective pronoun in a sentence. As it focuses to highlight the subject in a statement it is often replaced with the words like- I, he, she, and they.

For Ex-

  • Who do you want to meet?              
  • Who is cooking tonight’s dinner?              
  • Who is coming to meet you today, your mom or dad?

How and when to use ‘Who’

To ask who: it is used as the subject.

For Ex-

  • Who is that new teacher?              
  • Who knows the direction to the cinema hall?               
  • Do you know who he is?

Additionally, you can use it to specify who you are speaking to or to include a clause that provides additional details about the subject at hand.

For Ex-

  • It might be my mother, who came from the office.             
  • Payal is the one who loves drawing portraits as her hobby.             
  • Rishi is the one who always arrives late at work.

You can also use it to ask about someone or a group of individual's names

For Ex-

  • Who is the finance minister of our country?              
  • Who is the leader of our team?              
  • Who is the manager of our department?

Additionally, it can be used to describe the subject in a specific way.

For Ex-

  • Is there anyone who likes tea?             
  • Who is the younger sibling out of you two?             
  • Who would like to eat some pasta?

It can also link a main clause to a relative clause by acting as a relative pronoun.

For Ex-

  • The guard who works in our society is not very careful.              
  • My friend who lives near me visits me every weekend.              
  • My co-worker who helped me is absent from work today.

Examples-

  • Who are you talking about?
  • Who is at the farewell party?
  • Who is going to score the last goal?
  • My classmate who is mostly absent visited the ceremony.
  • Who wants to eat ice cream?
  • Do you know who my father is meeting tonight?
  • The woman who is sitting beside me seems to have a fever.
  • There is a long line of people who are waiting for the concert to get started.

What does ‘Whom’ mean?

‘Whom’ is essentially nothing more than the verbal object of the verb "to be," which is frequently used in formal contexts. It identifies the recipient of the action. The pronoun ‘Whom’ is used to identify the object of a verb or preposition. It is used to inquire about a verb's or preposition's object. It highlights the objective pronoun in a sentence. It is commonly used with pronouns such as- me, him, her, and them.

For Ex-

  • Whom did you meet yesterday?              
  • Whom did she get married to?              
  • With whom are you coming to the school graduation ceremony?

How and when to use ‘Whom’

To add more detail and relative clauses to the sentence.

For Ex-

  • I met my mother’s friend, whom she told me about.             
  • I wish to become the person whom I idolize about.             
  • Our teacher called the students whom he likes the most.

To enquire or to ask questions in a sentence.

For Ex-

  • Whom should I meet today?               
  • With whom should I go to watch the movie?              
  • Whom should I call for help?

Before a preposition, it can be used to pose an indirect query regarding a subject.

For Ex-

  • I don’t know for whom she is doing all this.              
  • Our teacher asked with whom we are going to pair up for our project.              
  • She doesn’t know with whom I am going on the trip.

We use ‘Whom’ after prepositions like- to, for, with, and of.

For Ex-

  • My friend with whom I studied in 8th grade is back in town.             
  • The students, one of whom doesn’t like sugar, is unable to eat  anything sweet.
  • For whom are you decorating this room?

Examples-

  • Whom are you waiting for?
  • He is the teacher whom everyone respects in this school.
  • To whom should I pass the sheets?
  • My brother whom I missed so much is coming this week.
  • With whom should I discuss the meeting?
  • He is my boss whom I admire the most.
  • By whom are they selected for this competition?
  • With whom are you going to the concert this weekend?
  • Ben with whom I attended the high school is now in the same college as me.
  • You should be careful with whom you trust.
  • I don’t know whom you are talking about.
  • From whom are we hiding in a basement?
  • He is the one whom I care about the most.

Main differences between Who and Whom (in points)

  • The interrogative pronoun "who" is used to identify the person or subject we are referring to. On the other hand, when referring to the individual to whom the action is aimed, we use the word "whom”.
  • We use ‘who’ as a subjective pronoun in an expression as it tells us about the subject of the verb, while ‘whom’ is used as an objective pronoun which depicts the object of the verb.
  • The pronoun ‘who’ can be used in place of other pronouns such as I, he, she, and they. Whereas, we use ‘whom’ in place of pronouns like- me, him, her, and them in a sentence.
  • Commonly we use ‘who’ in an informal way while on the contrary, ‘whom’ is used with a more formal approach while writing.
  • Examples of ‘Who’-
    • Do you know who he is?                                  
    • I can’t remember who are you referring to.                                   
    • Who is the winner of this singing competition?                                  
    • Who do you want to see?
  • Examples of ‘Whom’-
    • With whom do you want to meet?                                     
    • Whom did you call for the conference?                                       
    • My neighbor whom I called last week is coming today.                                        
    • I am not sure with whom I going to attend the office party this weekend.

Conclusion

With so many rules to remember in English grammar, sometimes it might get confusing when differentiating words with almost similar meanings and their usage in the language. But once you grasp the concept it’s the easiest thing to understand. Some of the confusing words in grammar also include the usage of- ‘Who’ and ‘Whom’ in a sentence while speaking or writing. Although they might appear almost similar in their meanings, they are used very distinctively while writing.

The way "who" and "whom" are used in sentences is the fundamental distinction between them. The pronoun "who" is used as the subject of a verb, whereas the pronoun "whom" is used as the object of a verb or preposition. For your writing to retain the proper grammatical arrangement, it's essential to utilize these pronouns correctly. When you are using ‘who’ in a sentence, it refers to the identity of an individual in that sentence or the person who is doing an action, whereas ‘whom’ refers to someone who is receiving an action in the expression.

If you can answer a question with pronouns like- I, he, she, and they then you should use ‘who’ in the sentence but if your answer contains pronouns such as- me, him, her, and them you should use ‘whom’ accordingly. If you can substitute the word with, he or she, use “who”; if it would be better to replace it with him or her, use "whom." This is a quick and easy way to remember the difference between who and whom.

We use ‘who’ in informal writing or while talking to someone casually, whereas ‘whom’ is used when we are referring to something more formally or professionally. The usage of ‘whom’ with time is being reduced, thus there are some cases where even if we use ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’ it does not sound or looks absurd or weird, as the native speakers are also comfortable that way.

Examples for ‘Who’-

  • Who are you meeting this evening?                                   
  • Do you know who is the monitor of the class?                                   
  • Who ate my chocolates?                                    
  • Who is selling these books at half the price?                                    
  • Who wrote these incorrect answers?

Examples for ‘Whom’-

  • To whom am I talking?                                       
  • With whom did you discuss the details of our weekend party.                                       
  • Rita, whom I helped last week gave me a gift today.                                       
  • With whom is he going to that party?                                       
  • Whom should I talk to about the upcoming annual  function?                                               

References

  1. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/who-vs-whom-its-not-as-complicated-as-you-might-think/  
  2. https://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/who_whom.htm  
  3. https://www.scribbr.com/commonly-confused-words/who-vs-whom/  
  4. https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/grammar-usage-who-versus-whom.html  
  5. https://prowritingaid.com/who-vs-whom  
  6. https://en.amazingtalker.com/questions/1375
  7. https://www.elevenwriting.com/blog/who-vs-whom

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"Difference Between Who and Whom." Diffzy.com, 2024. Mon. 04 Mar. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-who-and-whom>.



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