Seriously, When Do You Actually Use “Whom”?

There are certain word rules that can stump even the most eloquent speaker — like “lay vs. lie,” “than vs. then,” and “effect vs. affect,” for example. But in the English-speaking world, the “who vs. whom” debate takes its rightful place as one of the greatest language puzzlers.

How do we solve the problem? Is the answer to stop using “whom” altogether? Is it simply an archaic, outdated way of saying “who”? Or does it have its place in modern times? Read on for a handy trick that will ensure you always know which “w” word to use, in any context.

The Real Rule

The technical rule is as follows:

“Who” is used when referring to the subject of the sentence.

“Whom” is used when referring to the object of a verb or preposition.

Now, let’s turn that into something practical and useful:

When a person is the focus of a sentence, i.e. they are the ones who have completed an action or are being discussed, they are the subject. This is when you use “who.”

For example:

Who showed you how to do that?
Who ate all my cake?
Who wrote this article?

When a person is having (or has had) something done to them, they are no longer the subject, but the object of the verb. This is when you use “whom.”

For example:

Whom do you like best?
Whom are you going to meet at the coffee shop?

Sometimes, a preposition (for, to, by, with, about) needs to be used with whom”:
With whom are you going to this party?
This article was written by whom?

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