Who vs. Whom: When to Use Whom or Who with Useful Examples

Last Updated on January 6, 2024

The problem with the words who and whom is that not only do they sound very similar, but we use them in situations that are very similar too. Knowing when to use which of the words is a difficult thing, and some of the most enthusiastic writers in the world still don’t know how to use the two correctly, so where does that leave the rest of us?

Thankfully, this guide will take you through how to use who and whom correctly, provide you with some common mistakes and examples, and give you a helpful little trick to check if you have used the words who or whom correctly, or whether it needs to be changed to the other one.

Who vs. Whom: What is the Difference? 

So many people use who when they should use whom, especially when speaking, that it is not considered a big mistake. However, if you want to know the difference between whom vs. who and be sure that you are using the correct one. It is a pretty simple one.

Who vs. Whom: When to Use Whom or Who with Useful ExamplesPin

Key Takeaways

  • “Who” is used for the subject performing an action.
  • “Whom” is used for the object that is receiving an action.
  • Understanding the correct usage of “who” and “whom” enhances clarity in communication.

Who vs. Whom: Overview 

  • WHO is a pronoun that refers to the subject of the sentence.
  • WHOM is a pronoun that refers to the object of the sentence.

Examples:

  • Who locked the door?
  • She’s the woman whom I met in Paris.

Whom

Whom is most often used to refer to the object of a verb or a preposition. Most often you’ll find whom following another word, as it is less likely to find whom at the start of a sentence than it is to find who there (although this isn’t impossible). Remember whom always refers to the object of the sentence.

Who

When we use who in a sentence, it should always refer to the subject of the sentence, not the object. There is a straightforward way to remember this distinction, without having to identify whether you’re referring to the object or subject, which can often get confusing. Follow this simple shortcut below, and you’ll never make the mistake of using whom or who wrongly again!

Who vs. Whom: Usages and Examples 

When to Use Who

1) You are asking about the subject, i.e. the person who performs the action, e.g. Who is his mother? Who will come here tomorrow?

2) You are adding a clause to give additional information about the subject, e.g. Jennifer is my friend who likes reading.

3) You are asking about the name of someone or a group of people, e.g. Who is the class president?

When to Use Whom

1) You are asking about the object, i.e. the person to which the action is directed, e.g. Whom should I help? Whom did you ask to come with you?

2) You are adding a relative clause to give additional information about the object, e.g. She called the man whom she met yesterday.

3) You are asking an indirect question about the object, e.g. They asked me, whom I invited to dinner.

Trick to Remember the Differences between Whom vs. Who

When using whom in a sentence, you should be able to replace it with her/him/them, and the sentence should still make grammatical sense. Like this:

  • To whom did you give the laptop?
  • To her/him/them did you give the laptop?

Of course, the above example reads oddly, but it still makes grammatical sense (even if it feels a little Old English-y).

Likewise, when using who in a sentence, you should be able to replace it with he/she/they, and the sentence should still make grammatical sense again. Like this:

  • Who will attend the party?
  • She/He/They will attend the party?

This makes slightly more sense when you read it too, so that’s a bonus. Just remember, whom can be replaced with her/him/them, and who can be replaced with he/she/they.

Examples of Using Who vs. Whom in Sentences

WHO WHOM   
  • Who is going to the store?
  • Do you know who called earlier?
  • Who made this decision?
  • The athlete who won the race is being interviewed.
  • Who wants to go out for pizza?
  • To whom should I address the letter?
  • Whom did you see at the party?
  • The author whom we met at the conference is very knowledgeable.
  • She couldn’t decide whom to invite.
  • Whom are you going to call?

Exercises and Practice

To master the usage of “who” and “whom,” it’s helpful to engage in exercises that reinforce our understanding. “Who” is used when referring to the subject of a sentence—the person performing an action. “Whom,” on the other hand, is used when referring to the object—the person the action is being done to.

Multiple Choice

  1. (A) Who (B) Whom should I say is calling?
  2. To (A) who (B) whom did you give the keys?
  3. (A) Who (B) Whom do you think will win the game tonight?
  4. (A) Who (B) Whom did they blame for the mistake?
  5. With (A) who (B) whom are you going to the concert?
  6. (A) Who (B) Whom were you talking to just now?
  7. (A) Who (B) Whom has the tickets for the show?
  8. (A) Who (B) Whom do you believe we should trust?
  9. (A) Who (B) Whom did the coach select for the team captain?
  10. (A) Who (B) Whom are you going to vote for in the election?

Answers

  1. A) Who
  2. B) Whom
  3. A) Who
  4. B) Whom
  5. B) Whom
  6. B) Whom
  7. A) Who
  8. A) Who
  9. B) Whom
  10. B) Whom

Frequently Asked Questions

When do we use ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’?
We use ‘who’ when referring to the subject of a sentence or question. Think of it as a replacement for ‘he’ or ‘she’. For example: “Who is coming to dinner?” (‘Who’ is the subject who is coming.)

How do we decide whether to use ‘who’ or ‘whom’ in a sentence?
To decide, we can simplify the sentence to see if ‘he/she’ or ‘him/her’ fits. If ‘he’ or ‘she’ fits, we should use ‘who’. If ‘him’ or ‘her’ is more appropriate, then ‘whom’ is the correct choice.

Can we have an example that illustrates using ‘whom’ correctly?
Certainly! Consider this: “To whom should we send this letter?” Here, ‘whom’ is the correct choice because it is the object of the preposition ‘to’.

Is it ever okay to use ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’ in informal conversation?
Yes, in informal speech and writing, people often use ‘who’ where ‘whom’ might be technically correct. That’s widely accepted, though we should use ‘whom’ in formal contexts to be grammatically correct.

Use ‘Who’ Use ‘Whom’
As a subject As an object
He/She fits Him/Her fits
Who is she? Whom did you see?

Remember, practice makes perfect, and soon using ‘who’ and ‘whom’ will become second nature!

 

5 thoughts on “Who vs. Whom: When to Use Whom or Who with Useful Examples”

  1. Replacing whom with ”her him they” or who with ”he she they” doesn’t work.

    I’m comfortable with whom / who I am.
    I am comfortable with him I am.

    The world is a book, and those who / whom do not travel read only a page.

    The world is a book, and those him do not travel read only a page.

    I don’t get it.

    Reply
    • They’re both “who” if we’re following the rules of this article. “I am/they are comfortable” and “they do not travel” would be what you’d replace the sentences with to find what to use.

      But for what it’s worth, I don’t think “whom” is used in common speech anymore, in fact I don’t remember anyone using it in my lifetime without saying it in a satirical or ironic way. So I wouldn’t worry about it, unless it’s required you use very formal writing. You’d just come off as pretentious otherwise, especially if you can’t speak the way you’ve written.

      Reply
  2. Please add printable versions to your website. Using “right-click, print” results in the partial loss of information at the top of each page. It is also time-consuming to have to return again and again for the same information when I could have it on hand instead.

    Reply

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