I read the title and think of some tribal song. But trust me, there’s nothing of that sort happening here. Read the title again and it’ll disclose the essence who vs whom (if you’re a grammar lover, you may have got the rule too :)).
Whom is what many call the problem word because they are unsure about its usage. In fact, many who use it contemplate their sentences with “Did I use whom correctly”.
One stylebook really grasped my attention some years back where it talked about some chant on who vs whom that goes ‘whom-ah…him-ah; he-hoo…who-hoo’. Interesting and goes well too!
The grammar rule that this chant gives is to use whom when you mean him and who when you mean he. One other difference between who and whom is who refers to the subject and whom to the direct object. Let’s study some examples now.
Who is sitting in the class? [Ans.: He is sitting.]
Whom did you see in the evening? [Ans. I saw him.]
Looking at the possible answers and the rule, you will understand why who is correct in the first sentence and whom in the second. In the first sentence, he is the subject; while in the second sentence, him is the direct object. And you have potentially guessed the subject in the second sentence; it’s you.
But I know many language experts think using whom at times sounds uptight. They prefer using who in a sentence like ‘Whom are you going out with?’ (even when they know it’s whom).
I’m making a point here that whom definitely exists and grammar lovers appreciate the correct use of who and whom.
How I learnt the difference was to leave a blank in the question and fill it up with either whom or who after answering the question with he or him. It works, wanna try?
_____ made the cake?
_____ did she hire to mow the lawn?
You referred _____ in the meeting?
_____ disclosed the truth to the owner?
Answers: who, whom, whom, who.
But as much as I love this grammar rule and use it, I have a strong feeling whom will disappear from our dictionaries soon because many feel its usage sounds odd sometimes even when being technically correct. What do you feel?
For me every grammar rule is worth knowing. You never know … you may impress someone with your superb knowledge of some very basic grammar. After all, little things do make a difference.