To whom it may concern

Some of the language rules we learn in elementary school don’t seem to stick with us into adulthood. When do you use “that” and when do you use “which”? What is an appositive? And how can you avoid dangling modifiers?

Another language concept that creates a lot of confusion is subjects and objects in sentences. Do you say, “He gave the list to Alice, Eunice and I”? Or is it, “He gave the list to Alice, Eunice and me”? (If you aren’t sure, peek here for the answer.)

This concept is also responsible for misuse of who and whom. A lot of people seem to know they should use “whom” some of the time, but can’t quite connect it to subjects and objects. So we end up with sentences such as, “Whom do you think will win the game?”

That’s incorrect because “who” is used for subjects of sentences, and “whom” is used for objects. In that sentence, the pronoun is the subject of the sentence, so it should be “who.”

"Who" is a pronoun for the subject of a sentence: "Who is ready to have fun?" "Whom" is used for the object: "To whom was the message emailed?" (In case you need a reminder, the subject is the person or thing doing something in a sentence, the object is the person or thing that something is being done to. In the sentence, "I told her to be here at 9 a.m.," "I" is the subject and "her" is the object.) Another way to decide between "who" and "whom" is to look at the pronouns you might use instead. If you would say "he," "she" or "they," the proper replacement is "who." If you would say "him," "her" or "them," the proper replacement is "whom."

We make far fewer mistakes about when to use “he” vs. “him,” “she” vs. “her” and “they” vs. “them.” So if you’re not sure whether it’s “who” or “whom,” try substituting one of those pronouns. This often comes in the form of imagining an answer to a question. For example, you would not answer, “Whom do you think will win the game?” with, “I think him will win the game.” Therefore, you know to use “who” in the question.

Can you think of someone *whom* you’d like to share this tip with?

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