Friday, 22 May 2015

To whom it may concern

To whom or not to whom - that is the question that stumps so many people.

Hi there everyone! Hands up if you're confused about whom and who? Yep, my hand's up there too. It's one of the more difficult concepts in the English language and recently I was asked to proof read a document for a large government owned organisation and I came across an instance where the writer had written, "I spoke to Bill, whom told me that ..."

Does that sound incorrect to you?

It sounded incorrect to me but I didn't know why, so I decided to do a bit of research and find out why it sounded wrong, whether it was in fact wrong, and whether there was an easy-to-remember rule for figuring these things out.

Well, turns out it was incorrect, but I still didn't know why so here's what my research uncovered.

According to my Chicago Manual of Style, there are two rules for using whom:

1. when whom is the object of a verb
2. when whom is the object of a preposition.

That's all well and good when you're chatting over a chai latte with an English academic, but what about us real people?

So, I consulted my Australian Government Style Manual. This is what it told me:
"The prounoun whom is the traditional counterpart of the relative pronoun who, when it serves as the object of a verb or preposition."

What the ...? Can I just get a straight answer like: Use whom when ... use who when ...

Enter Dr Google.

I typed in the question, when to use whom and bingo! Instant answer!
Who is the person doing the action.
Whom is the person having the action done to them.

Don't you just love plain English?!

Example: My husband gave me flowers.
Who gave the flowers? My husband.
To whom did he give them? Me!

Another method of looking at it is:
  • he = who
  • him = whom

If he/she is doing something, then it's who.
If something is happening to him/her then it's whom.

So much easier now we're all experts, right?

Right! Until next week, find a reason to practise your whoing and whoming!
Oh and for the record, my husband only gives me flowers these days when he prunes the garden!!

But I always get a little gift on the 15th of the month (our first date was the 15th November many, many years ago, and he's has never forgotten).


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