English grammar. Who vs. Whom - how to understand which word to use

Original author: Brett Johnson
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Understanding the tricks of English grammar can be quite difficult. A classic example here is the choice between who and whom. Even native speakers do not always correctly use the right word, let alone those who are only learning English.

In the blog of one of the English spelling and grammar checking services, I found material with several rules that you need to use in order to always correctly solve the Who vs Whom dilemma. Here is an adapted translation of this material.

Subject and addition

The difference between who and whom is best explained using the concepts of subject and complement in a sentence. The subject is used to describe someone who commits an action. If in the sentence you are talking about just such an “actor”, then you need to use who.

In short: “Who” acts in your sentence.


Who is going to the party with me?

Who is the tallest in the class?

Who broke the vase?

If we are talking about someone or something, in relation to whom or what the action takes place, then this is an addition. And then you need to use whom.


Whom did she shout at?

To whom your message was sent?

Mnemonic rule

There is a simple mnemonic rule for remembering who or whom to use in a sentence. You need to think about how you can replace an actor in a sentence - if the pronoun he or she is suitable as a substitute, then you need to use Who. If you can replace it only with him or her, then you should use whom.

Question definition

Another way to solve the problem is to ask a question. If the proposal is about someone who performs an action (subject), then you can ask a question with the word who.


Offer : Tom is going home.

Question : Who is going home?

And vice versa, if an addition is mentioned, that is, something that does not perform independent actions, but only “accepts” them, then we can formulate a question with the word whom.


Offer : The letter is delivered by a mailman.

Questions : The letter is delivered by whom? / By whom the letter is delivered?


Everything can be simplified even more. To understand which word can be used with the help of a single letter M.

Here's how it works: if you answered Him to the question from the point above, then use Whom - both words end with M. If you answered He, then use Who. Both words end in a vowel.

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