Who, whose and Whom

In this installment of the Best Writing Guide, the focus is on how to use who, whose, and whom.  Writers have made these words famous, decorating their content and reducing the frequency with which they mention names and titles. Some authors have misused them to the extent that they no longer know where to use them. So, they are written out of context, have inappropriate relationships with pronouns, and even with verbs.

How do we determine when it is required to use who, whose, or whom? Are there established grammatical rules that define this, or, is this just a phonics or syntax problem?  Even during the 12th century, there was no distinction between ‘who’ and ‘that’, both words were used to refer to people or things. It was common to say ‘the mango who fell to the ground’, and  ‘the men that open the door’. However, by the 17th century ‘who’ was used only in reference to people, and ‘that’ was used for animals and things.

The grammatical role of who, whose, and whom

Learn how to make a living writing online.
Make a living writing

In 1975, Sydney Pottier pointed out in his book, Changing English, that the use of ‘whom’ was so badly demised that it was only present in written literature. And by 1989, the OED declared “whom” is “no longer current in natural colloquial speech.”  Facing this synthetical concern, the usage of pronouns, subjective or objective, raises concerns about other usages, for example, how to use a comma.

  • Who: The online dictionary defines ‘who’ as a pronoun with a principal subjective role. The pronoun ‘who’ also has an interrogative pronoun function alongside what, where, when, and which.

The boy who kicks the ball.
Who kicks the ball?

  •  Whose:Whose’ is classified as the possessive form of ‘who’ and is the only form of the pronoun that may be used for both people and things alike.

The boy whose hand I shook, is the boy who kicked the ball.
The car whose tire exploded is the red one.

  • Whom:Whom’ is the objective form of the pronoun ‘who’ and is mostly used in formal English and literature.

To whom it may concern.
The men with whom you were speaking, are fashion designers.

Differentiating between who and whom can still catch the most experienced writers off guard. This rule of thumb is a golden turkey. In a sentence the pronoun ‘who’ usually replaces the personal pronoun, that is, it acts instead of  “I”, “he”, “she”, “we”, and “they”.

Byron is someone who sings well.  Instead of he sings well.

‘Whom’ however, is objective and replaces “me”, “him”, “her”, “us” and “them” in a sentence.

She is someone whom the children love.  Instead of the children love her.

How to use who

Using ‘who’ in sentences can be either of two ways, one as a relative pronoun or an interrogative pronoun. In its derived form, ‘who’ is generally used to form questions related to nouns or pronouns.

Who is the breeder of the quarter arab horse?
Who is Benjamín Button?

When ‘who’ is used in a sentence, it may be plural or singular, depending on the subject idea or the subject, if present.

Who is reading the guide about how to write a press release?

Who were the writers of the Beagle Duck, and the Bat Raven?
Who was the writer of Shane?

Quickbooks pro cloud serviceHow to use whose?

In its relative pronoun form, ‘who’ is used instead of personal pronouns.

These are the men who built the school.
This is the girl who won the race.

Other forms of ‘who’ that are not very popular in speech, but may be seen in writing are ‘whoever’ and ‘whosoever’.

Whoever comes tomorrow will be charged.
Whosoever opens that door will feel my wrath.

 How to use whom?

There is a common tendency to use ‘who’ in informal speech or writing and only use ‘whom’ in a formal context.

Formal:                To whom did you send the flowers?
Informal:             Who did you send the flowers to?

‘Whom’ is used in two general forms: as a verb object or as a preposition component.
Verb object:                                 Whom do you like?
Preposition Component:            On whom do you plan to depend?

Using who, whose, and whom is part of our daily talk and prose, without them sentences would become boring and repetitive.

Take the Quiz – Show Off your grammar

Need traffic? Want more sales? Visit the Business Center.

Who. (2022, July 3). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_(pronoun)
Who Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com

2 thoughts on “Best Writing Guide – How to Use Who, Whose, and Whom?”

Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.