Who or Whom: What’s the Difference?

Deciding on whether to use who or whom can confuse many people. Whom is the object of a preposition or verb. Who, however, provides information about an individual or individuals previously mentioned. It can also refer to the subject of a sentence. While their definitions sound pretty simple, it can be tricky, especially when trying to decide on when to use who or whom. Let’s look at the following examples:

Example 1:

Whom ate my french fries?

Who ate my french fries?

As you can see above, they both sound pretty natural in the sentence. However, one of them is incorrect. Do you know which one is correct and which one isn’t? Let’s take a closer look at “whom” and “who.” To help you better understand when to use them, let’s start with “who.”

If you are able to replace “who” with “she” or “he,” then “who” should be used in the sentence. In the above example, are you able to replace “who” with he or she? Yes, you can. The word “who” can absolutely be replaced by she or he. “Who” is the subject to the verb, in the sentence. Let’s see how the sentence would read, after replacing it with these pronouns.

She ate my french fries.

He ate my french fries.

As you can see, “she” or “he” sounds perfect in the sentence. Let’s look at “whom.” Remember that “whom” refers to the object of the sentence. In the example above, “whom” wouldn’t be the correct answer, because it is referring to the subject of the sentence. Therefore, as stated above “who” would be the correct answer.

Whom ate my french fries? (incorrect)

Who ate my french fries? (correct)

A way to remember when you should use “whom” is by replacing it with “him” or “her.” Let’s look at another example:

Example 2:

I should talk to who/whom about labeling the cabinet drawers.

Remember that if “she” or “he” can be replaced, then the answer would be “who.” If it can be replaced with “him” or “her,” “whom” would be the answer. So, which would be the correct answer?

I should talk to she about labeling the cabinet drawers.

I should talk to her about labeling the cabinet drawers.

The correct answer would be “whom.” As you can see in the example, “her” went perfect in the sentence. If the sentence was in question form, you would have to rearrange the sentence, to determine the correct answer. In this case, you would need to determine, if the sentence is talking about someone who is actually doing something.

I should talk to who about labeling the cabinet drawers. (incorrect)

I should talk to whom about labeling the cabinet drawers. (correct)

Let’s look at another example:

Example 3:

Who took her daughter to school? (correct)

Whom took her daughter to school? (incorrect)

The correct answer would be “who.” Keep in mind that “who” refers to the subject of the verb. The verb in the sentence is “took.” If you replaced the “who” with “she” or “he,” they would sound perfect.

She took her daughter to school.

He took her daughter to school.

In the sentence, we need a subject, which is why “whom” wouldn’t be the answer. Remember, “whom” refers to the object of the sentence and not the subject.

Him took her daughter to school.

Her took her daughter to school.

As shown above, “him” or “her” isn’t correct. The following is another example:

Example 4:

Who/whom would like a piece of candy?

Who would like a piece of candy? (correct)

Whom would like a piece of candy? (incorrect)

The answer would be “who,” because it is the subject of the verb “like.” If we rearrange the sentence, it would say,” She would like a piece of candy,” or “He would like a piece of candy.” As you can see, “he” or “she” sounds great in the sentence. Another example is shown below:

Example 5:

Whom/ who was the birthday girl?

Whom was the birthday girl? (correct)

Who was the birthday girl? (incorrect)

In this last example, the subject is already present in the sentence. The subject is “girl,” so we know that “who” wouldn’t be the answer. Remember that “who” represents the subject of a sentence. So, the answer would be “whom” instead. “Whom” would be the object of the sentence. Some additional examples of when to use “whom” or “who” is shown below:

Example 6:

Whom/who are you talking to?

Who are you talking to? (correct)

Whom are you talking to? (incorrect)

Example 7:

To whom/who was the document addressed?

To whom was the document addressed? (correct)

To who was the document addressed? (incorrect)

Example 8:

Whom/who do you know?

Whom do you know? (correct)

Who do you know? (incorrect)

Example 9:

Whom/who would like to go to the park?

Whom would like to go to the park? (incorrect)

Who would like to go to the park? (correct)

Example 10:

I do not know with whom/who I will go to the movies.

I do not know with whom I will go to the movies. (correct)

I do not know with who I will go to the movies. (incorrect)


Capitalize My Title is a dynamic title capitalization tool used to make sure your titles or headlines use proper capitalization rules according to various style guides include APA, AP, MLA, and Chicago. It also counts your words and checks for grammar issues.

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