Wrong Word Wednesday #35

Every week I will demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the one intended. Sometimes this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence. Unfortunately, the mistake is usually so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television

Who / Whom

This is one that confuses a lot of people (me included sometimes!) but the solution is very, very simple. It is all a matter of what the subject of the verb is.

“Who” is always the subject of the verb so you will say: “Who is “Who is coming to the party tonight?” because “who” is the subject of the word “party”

“Whom” can never be the subject of the verb so you will say: “You gave invitations to whom?” because “you” is the subject and “whom” does not have an object.

It’s not particularly easy to remember like that but Grammar Monster has an interesting little trick on how to remember the difference.

Substitute who with the word he. If that part of the sentence still makes sense, then who is almost certainly correct.

  • Who paid for the meal? He paid for the meal. (< sounds ok. Therefore: Who paid for the meal? is correct.)
  • Sarah gave the tickets to who? …to he? (< does not sound ok. Therefore: who is wrong.)

4 thoughts on “Wrong Word Wednesday #35

  1. Inion N. Mathair

    I’ve always swayed back and forth between the two, figuring the option was based on preference rather than Grammar law, but you’ve given us a bad ass trick which Inion N. Mathair will be implementing in our writing from now on. 😉

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