Who vs. Whom: Which is Correct?

Choosing between who and whom, either as a relative pronoun or question word, can be tricky for English language learners and native speakers of English alike.

The quick test in choosing between who and whom is to substitute he or him. If he sounds better, who is correct; if him sounds right, whom is correct. That’s because as a pronoun whom is used to represent the object of either a verb or a preposition, while who represents the subject of a verb.

He is the consultant whom we contacted for advice. (We contacted him.)
To whom was the letter addressed? (The letter was addressed to him.)
He is the consultant who can answer your question. (He can answer your question.)

Increasingly, native speakers of English are adopting who as the preferred pronoun in informal conversation, even when whom, not who, is correct. This means that whom, when correctly used as an object pronoun, can sound more formal.

In the two examples above, the formality can be toned down by omitting the pronoun in the first, and using the more casual who in the second:
He is the consultant we contacted for advice.
Who was the letter addressed to?

Who did you go to the movies with? is technically incorrect but very common, even for speakers who are well aware of the mistake.
With whom did you go to the movies? is correct but in an informal conversation can stand out as having a bit more formal tone.

The he/him test works well unless you’re confronted with a choice between whoever and whomever as in this sentence:
You can just talk with whoever/whomever answers the phone.

Even native English speakers get confused by this, because our instinct tells us that whom, not who, should follow the preposition with. However, there is another rule in English which dictates that every verb in a tense needs a subject. Here, whoever is the correct choice, since the verb answers needs a subject.

Striking a more formal, educated tone doesn’t have to be the only reason to use whom as the object pronoun. Sometimes it’s an elegant way to emphasize a distinction between subject and object. If you see someone walking a dog, and the dog is so big and strong that it’s all its owner can do to keep up with it, you can ask, Who is walking whom?



Which is correct?
My father, who I love so dearly. Or My father, whom I love so dearly.


Should be: “the person to whom I sent the image” – “I” is the subject of the relative clause; “sent” is the verb; and “to whom” the indirect object.


Whom is correct here. Why? Because the pronoun I is the subject of the verb saw, and whom is the object of the same verb saw. The relative pronoun whom gives more information about Jacob, the person receiving – not doing – the action see. Use the subject form who for people doing an action and the object form whom for people receiving the action.


“Whom” is correct in this context, as it is the object of the preposition “with.” Change “go for shopping” to “go shopping” – the form of go + gerund is used for activities with verb names such as “go swimming” and “go skiing.” Keep in mind that while “with whom” is correct, it is also very formal. In informal contexts, native English speakers would often say instead, “Who did you go shopping with?” – technically incorrect but common in informal situations.

Anil Gupta

Which is the right sentence
1. Who does mala see?
2. Whom does mala see?


Thanks for your comment, Christian. I agree with you, and your comment prompted me to revise my description of the effect of using whom in conversation. Inconsistencies in tone can be jarring, but on the other hand, one can use whom in informal conversation without sounding stuffy.


Does using whom make you sound educated? Sure.
Absurd? I think that is a little extreme.


You can still use the he/him test if you rephrase the question and ask yourself which sounds better: Did you see he/him? You need the object pronoun him after the verb see, so the correct choice is Whom did you see? Keep in mind, however, that native speakers of English often use who in questions like this even when they know that whom is correct, since who as an object pronoun is becoming more and more common in informal speech.


How about when it’s difficult to us the he/him test. Whom/who did you see.


I can’t believe you answered all these…
If someone asks me “Where are they?” and I have no idea who (whom?) they are talking about should I reply Who? or Whom?


It really comes down to a question of tone. Of your three examples, the first is formal, and the third is informal. The second is a mix of formal (whom instead of who for the object pronoun) and informal (putting the preposition to after the verb instead of before the relative pronoun). Mixing the two tones in the same sentence makes for non-standard usage for formal written English and non-standard usage for informal spoken English and a confusion of tones.

Jack Aubele

Could you please explain about these sentences in more detail?
1. To whom were you talking just now?
2. Whom were you talking to just now?
3. Who were you talking to just now?

To my understanding, prepositions are allowed to be placed at the end of sentences in most situations in English. If the sentence “Who were you talking to just now?” is acceptable in informal settings, why is it incorrect to replace the word who with the objective form whom but still leave the preposition at the end of the sentence? Thanks.


Only the first is technically correct. Put the preposition to before the object pronoun whom.

Jack Aubele

Are both of these sentences correct?

1. To whom were you talking just now?
2. Whom were you talking to just now?

English Learner

Are both of these sentences correct?

1. To whom were you talking just now?
2. Whom were you talking to just now?


The man who is walking down the street is a firefighter. The men who are walking down the street are firefighters. Both of these sentences are correct because who can be either singular or plural depending on the word to which it refers.

nishat shetu

who is walking or who are walking which one is correct ?


I agree that tone (formal/informal) is part of style, and native English speakers often choose between who and whom based on choice of tone, but vestiges of grammar remain: if in trying to sound formal, someone says “Whom is at the door?,” most people would perceive that as both awkward style and a mistake in grammar.

Michael Byrne

Who or whom is not a test of correct English but merely a stylistic choice.


Whom is correct here, not who. In the subordinate clause “a student whom some consider brilliant,” some is the subject, consider is the verb, and whom is the object of the verb. Substituting personal pronouns for the relative pronouns is perhaps an easier way of choosing between who and whom. Which sounds better to you: some consider her brilliant, or some consider she brilliant? The reason the first of these two sounds better is because the object form (her/whom) is correct here, not the subject form (she/who).


sorry what is this answer
The perplexing math problem was solved by a student
some consider brilliant.

which one


The second version is the correct one. Whom is the object of the verb may know (you is the subject). If you rephrase it in standard subject/verb/object word order, it’s easier to see why the object relative pronoun whom is correct here: you may know them (object pronoun), not you may know they (subject pronoun).


Is it: the owners, Mel and Fran, who you may know
the owners, Mel and Fran, whom you may know


“Who’s who,” the contraction of “Who is who,” is actually technically correct. It’s true that the second “who” follows the verb, but position before or after the verb is not the real test of whether to use the subject pronoun “who” or the object pronoun “whom.” When a noun or pronoun after the verb does not receive the action of the verb but instead complements the subject of the verb, either by describing, renaming, or mirroring the subject, we call the verb a linking or copula verb (“be” is the most common example), and we use the subject pronoun, instead of the object pronoun, after the verb. A subject pronoun that follows a verb is called, in grammar, a subject complement or a predicative complement. In the phrase “who’s who,” the first “who” is the subject of the verb, and the second “who” is the subject complement, referring back to and mirroring the subject.


Who is whom? is thus technically correct, if I’m following the logic set out above.
But if you’re wanting to know if someone is important,
we consult a ‘Who’s who’ almanac, yes?
I guess that colloquial English is winning this one, for now.


Technically “whom” is correct here, because “whom” is the object pronoun and “whom” is the object of the verb ask. However, in colloquial English, “whom” is being used more and more as a marker of formality than as a marker of the objective case, which means that in everyday conversation “whom” is becoming rarer even when it is technically correct as it is here. Thanks for your question!


Thanks for your comment. “Who” is the subject pronoun, and “whom” the object pronoun, so “whom” is definitely the correct form to use as the object of the preposition “with.” In a question, the preposition should also come first, as in “With whom did you go to the opera?”. Becoming a fluent English speaker sometimes entails more than just knowing what is correct; it also requires an understanding of how native speakers can vary their tone from formal to informal through their choice of form.


Whom did you go to the holidays with!!!!! The use of relative pronoun with is wrong !!!!


“In ordinary conversation, generally speaking, the answer is you’re right to be wrong – use who.”

Sorry, I couldn’t disagree with you more. We must strive to speak correctly instead of condoning and encouraging incorrect speech.

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