This is a help/revision sheet I made a year ago for my English as a foreign language students. I hope it is useful.
The difference between ‘who’ and ‘whom’
• Essentially, ‘who’ is the nominative
case, and ‘whom’ the accusative
• Therefore, when the person to whom you are referring is doing the action in the sentence, use ‘who’, and when said person is having the action done to them, use ‘whom’
• Tomas is a boy whom I like very much
• Tomas is a boy who likes me very much (I hope!)
• Use ‘whom’ as the object of the sentence, or after a preposition
(by, with, to, etc.)
(this section was intended to be a table, but I was unable to do one in HTML
. So I have put the three columns of the table in order and numbered the rows. I hope it is comprehendable) Correct
1. To whom (was it done)?
2. By whom (was it made)?
3. From whom (did you hear that)?
4. For whom (is that gift)?
5. She is the girl whom I love
6. She is the girl who loves me
7. To Whom It May Concern:
(a traditional letter-opening)
8. Who ate all the pies? David did! Incorrect
1. Who (was it done) to?
2. Who (was it made) by?
3. Who (did you hear that) from?
4. Who (is that gift) for?
5. She is the girl who I love
6. She is the girl whom loves me
7. To Who It May Concern:
8. Whom ate all the pies? David did! Reason
1. After a preposition (To)
2. After a preposition (By)
3. After a preposition (From)
4. After a preposition (For)
5. ‘She’ is the object
of the sentence
(she is being loved)
6. ‘She’ is the subject of the sentence (she is loving)
7. After a preposition (to)
8. David is the subjec
t as he is doing the action (eating the pies)
(table ends here)
• An easy way to know which one to use is to think to yourself – “Am I saying ‘he’ or ‘him’?”. If it is ‘he’, use ‘who’, and if it is ‘him’, use ‘whom’.
• He (David) ate all the pies = David is the one who ate all the pies
• I hate him (David) = David is a boy whom I hate
• She (Natalie) is pretty = Who is pretty? Natalie is!
• I love her (Natalie) = Whom do you love? Natalie!
Important Note –
Many people do not know these rules, and consequently do not use ‘whom’. Furthermore, it often sounds pretentious
and forced to use ‘whom’ in everyday speech (e.g. people would look at you funny if you were to say “From whom did you get that money?”, even though it is correct. In everyday conversation it is better to say “Who did you get that money
from?” even though it is incorrect. Save ‘whom’ for formal speech and writing like interviews, speeches and essays, where it will really impress.