Home > Library > Confusing Words > Is It Who Or Whom

Is It Who Or Whom

Published by at February 12th, 2024 , Revised On February 29, 2024

Grammar is the backbone of effective communication, and mastering its rules can significantly enhance your academic writing and speaking skills. One common area where people often stumble is the proper usage of “who” and “whom.” These pronouns, though similar, serve distinct roles in a sentence. Let’s explore these confusing words.

Understanding The Difference Between Who And Whom

Before getting into the nitty-gritty details, let’s establish a fundamental understanding of the difference between “who” and “whom.”

“Who” is a subjective pronoun used as the subject of a sentence or clause. It replaces the subject of a sentence, typically a person.

Examples Of Who

Here are some examples of where “who” can be used.

The Subject Of A Sentence

Who is coming to the meeting today?

In this sentence, “who” is the subject of the verb “is coming.”

Subject Of A Clause

The person who called you last night is my sister.

“Who” serves as the subject of the subordinate clause “who called you last night.”

Introduction In A Question

Who will be the keynote speaker at the conference?

Here, “who” introduces the question and acts as the subject of the verb “will be.”

Asking About Identity

Do you know who won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year?

“Who” is used to inquire about the identity of the person who won the Nobel Prize.

Relative Pronoun In A Descriptive Clause

The artist who painted this masterpiece remains unknown.

“Who” introduces the relative clause and functions as the subject of the verb “painted.”

Referring To People

I have a friend who is an expert in nursing.

“Who” is used to refer to a person and serves as the subject of the relative clause.

Connecting Clauses

He is the one who always arrives early for meetings.

“Who” connects the two clauses and serves as the subject of the second clause.

Adding Information

The student who won the science fair was praised by the principal.

“Who” adds information about the specific student and acts as the subject of the relative clause.

Identifying People

The detective asked, “Do you know who owns this mysterious mansion?”

“Who” is used to identify the owner of the mansion in question.

Subject Of A Dependent Clause

She wondered who had borrowed her favourite book.

In this sentence, “who” serves as the subject of the dependent clause “who had borrowed her favourite book.”

On the other hand, “whom” is an objective pronoun used as the object of a verb or preposition. It replaces the object of a sentence, again often a person.

Examples Of Whom

Here are several examples demonstrating the correct use of “whom” in sentences:

Object Of A Verb

The manager interviewed three candidates, one of whom was hired.

In this sentence, “whom” is the object of the verb “interviewed.”

Object Of A Preposition

To whom did you address the letter?

“Whom” is the object of the preposition “to.”

Object Of A Clause

She found the person with whom she wanted to collaborate.

“Whom” is the object of the preposition “with” in the subordinate clause.

Asking About The Object

Whom did you invite to the party?

In this question, “whom” is used to ask about the object of the action (the person invited).

Relative Pronoun In Descriptive Clause

The actor whom the director cast as the lead is quite talented.

“Whom” introduces the relative clause and serves as the object of the verb “cast.”

Connecting Clauses

She befriended a girl, with whom she shared many interests.

“Whom” connects the two clauses and serves as the object of the preposition “with.”

Formal Written Communication

This is the scientist to whom the research grant was awarded.

In formal writing, “whom” is often used correctly to maintain a higher level of grammatical precision.

Object Of An Infinitive

He chose the candidate whom he believed would excel in the role.

“Whom” is the object of the infinitive “to excel.”

Indirect Object

I gave the ticket to the person for whom it was intended.

“Whom” serves as the indirect object of the preposition “for.”

Object Of A Gerund

She appreciated the effort of the students whom she saw studying in the library every day.

“Whom” is the object of the gerund “studying.”

Hire A Professional Editor

  • Expert UK Editor
  • Grammar and Punctuation
  • Precision and Clarity
  • Zero Plagiarism
  • Excellent Customer Service

Remembering The Rule

A simple trick to determine whether to use “who” or “whom” is to rephrase the sentence with a personal pronoun. If “he,” “she,” or “they” fits, use “who.” If “him,” “her,” or “them” fits, use “whom.”


  • Who/Whom is the captain of the team?
    • He is the captain of the team. (Therefore, use who.)
  • I met the woman who/whom you recommended.
    • You recommended her. (Therefore, use whom.)

Relative Pronouns In Action

Understanding when to use “who” and “whom” becomes particularly crucial when dealing with relative pronouns in complex sentences. Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses and connect dependent clauses to main clauses.


  • The student who/whom the teacher praised received an award.
    • The teacher praised him. (Therefore, use whom.)

Tips For Correct Usage

  • Identify the Function: Determine whether the pronoun is serving as the subject or object in the sentence.
  • Rephrase with Personal Pronouns: If in doubt, rephrase the sentence using personal pronouns to guide your choice between “who” and “whom.”
  • Prepositions Matter: If a preposition is present, such as “to,” “for,” or “with,” use “whom” as it will likely be the object of that preposition.
  • Subject or Object of the Verb: Consider whether the pronoun is performing the action (subject) or receiving the action (object) in the sentence.

Common Pitfalls

Confusion In Formal Writing

People often stumble when faced with formal writing, where the pressure to adhere to grammar rules is higher. Take the time to analyse the sentence structure and choose the correct pronoun.

Misplacement In Relative Clauses

Relative clauses can be tricky. Ensure to identify the function of the pronoun within the clause to avoid misplacement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Use “who” as the subject of a sentence or clause, and “whom” as the object. To decide, rephrase with personal pronouns: if “he” or “she” fits, use “who”; if “him” or “her” fits, use “whom.” Additionally, “whom” often follows prepositions. Mastering this distinction enhances grammatical precision in communication.

Use “whom” as the object of a verb, preposition, or in relative clauses. Example: “To whom did you give the letter?” Here, “whom” is the object of the preposition “to.” Remember, “whom” replaces the objective form of pronouns like “him” or “her” and is crucial for grammatically correct sentences.

“By whom” is correct. Use “by whom” when referring to the object of an action after a preposition like “by.” For example, “The book was written by whom?” The use of “whom” here indicates that it is the object of the action “written.”

Use “whom” in formal contexts as it serves as the object of the verb “contact.” However, in everyday conversation, many people use “who.” So, you can say, “Who should I contact?” For formal writing, “Whom should I contact?” is grammatically correct and more precise.

About Alvin Nicolas

Avatar for Alvin NicolasNicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He is a content manager at ResearchProspect. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.