It’s August. (Whaaaaat? No way!) I’m moving back to East Lansing in exactly three weeks to start senior year, which means less than a month until I’m up to my elbows in reading and papers for my new classes.
I need a grammar refresher, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. (Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this, right? Right.)
Today’s topic is something that trips me up every time and something I’m sure I use incorrectly in daily conversation: who vs. whom. This one can be a doozy.
As always, here’s what the AP Stylebook has to say:
Who is the pronoun used for references to human beings and to animals with a name. It is grammatically the subject (never the object) of a sentence, clause or phrase: The woman who rented the room left the window open. Who is there?
Whom is used when someone is the object of a verb or preposition: The woman to whom the room was rented left the window open. Whom do you wish to see?
How many people in their right mind would say, “The woman to whom the room was rented left the window open,” when they could just as easily say, “The woman who rented the room left the window open”? When I first read AP Style’s entry on who vs. whom, I figured I could rearrange all my sentences so who was the correct choice. I mean, “The woman who rented the room left the window open,” is shorter and more direct, after all.
It doesn’t always work that way. Take this sentence I found on a post written by Jon Gingerich:
It’s difficult to rearrange that sentence to make who the right word, so my post-AP Style theory went down the drain. But there’s a simple way to remember how to decide between who and whom:
Take out who or whom and substitute it with he, she, him or her. If he or she fits, the word you’re looking for is who. If him or her fits, you want to use whom. I remember that because whom and him both end in M.
Or, on the other hand:
I know, whom still sounds funny sometimes. Who knew correct grammar could be so comical?
Additional grammar nugget: You can’t use that instead of who or whom because that only refers to inanimate objects or animals without names.