Primary English Tips | Grammar: The Mystery of "Who" vs "whom"
"Who" versus "Whom"!?
This is one of the most common mistakes that pupils make in the Grammar MCQ and even in sentence synthesis. Let's first understand it before we talk about how to remember it!
Every sentence has a subject (Doer of the action) and an object (receiver of the action).
For example, I kicked the boy. "I" is the subject while "the boy" is the object.
We use "who" and "whom" depending on whether we are referring to the subject or object.
who --> Doer of action (subject)
whom --> Receiver of action (object)
This is the boy whom I kicked.
Here, the boy is the receiver of the kick (object) and hence "whom" is used.
The is the boy who kicked me.
Whereas here, the boy is the doer of the action, kick, (subject) and hence "who" is used.
A quick tip is for pupils to look at the word after the blank.
This is the boy _____ kicked me.
This is the boy _____ can/cannot dance.
This is the boy _____ does not like pizza.
*This is the boy _____ really does not like pizza. ("really" shows the extent that the boy does not like pizza. The action is still by the boy.)
If it is a verb (recognise a verb as an action word or any word that has past/present tense), most likely it is an action by "the boy" and the answer will be "who".
This is the boy _____ I kicked.
If it is any other word e.g. pronoun, most likely "the boy" is receiving the action, and hence the answer will be "whom".
Likewise in a question:
Whom did you kick?
I am asking about the receiver of the action, hence the answer should be "whom" and not "who".
Who kicked you?
Now, I am asking about the doer of the action. "Who" will make sense now.
Some find this tip helpful: Answering the question with "him" or "he".
Whom did you kick? --> I kicked him.
Who kicked you? --> He kicked me.
If your answer is "him", most often than not "whom" is used.
If your answer is with "he", most likely "who" is used.
- Neither of _____________ is hungry.
Neither of they/them is hungry.
them > receiver > whom
If it is a question, answer the question.
- _________ can I look for at the party?
You can look for he/him.
him > receiver > whom
Whom can I look for at the party?
- _________ ate the last cupcake?
He/him ate the last cupcake.
he > doer > who
- "who" is used with the doer while "whom" is used with the receiver.
- Look for clues after the blank to have an idea.
- Fill in with he/him or they/them to know whether it is a doer or receiver.
You never wash your toilets, _________ you?
Think you know the answer?
1. 30 over bite-size video lessons!
2. Unique strategies to tackle a wide range of grammar topics e.g. subject-verb agreement, neither/either type questions, collective nouns etc.
3. Pitched at P5 and P6 levels (Or just anyone who wish to have a good grasp of grammar rules!)