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whoever or whomever…. that is the question

Whoever or Whomever?

Learn the rule (or how to avoid the issue).

By Neal Whitman, read by Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl June 18, 2011
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Episode #280

It’s time to take another look at a perennial source of confusion and frustration in English grammar: the pronoun “whom.”

I talked about “whom” in episodes 44 and 98, and I’ll give a quick recap to set the stage here, but if you haven’t listened to them yet, or if you’re not sure you remember them, you should go back and listen to them to get the most out of today’s episode.

“Who” Versus “Whom”

In episode 44, “Who Versus Whom,” I covered the basics: “whom” is the objective case of the pronoun “who,” used when “who” is an object in a sentence instead of a subject. For example, you’d use “who” in “Who loves you, baby?” because “who” is the subject of “loves.” But you’d use “whom” in “Whom do you love?” because “whom” is the object of “love” – the “object” of affection.

In episode 98, “Who Versus Whom, Advanced,” I took on more confusing cases, such as “Who do you think did it?” Since there are two verbs–“think” and “did”–at first, you might think it should be “Whom do you think did it.” “Who” isn’t the subject of the verb “think,” but it is the subject of the verb “did.” Since it’s in the subject position, the correct choice is “who.” It’s not different from the simple case we just covered; it’s just that the sentence is a little more complicated.

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