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Who vs. Whom

Choosing between “who” and “whom” can be confusing for even experienced writers. This article will outline when to use who, when to use whom, and how to remember the difference easily.

The difference between who and whom.

You could call who and whom grammatical cousins.  We use these as interrogative pronouns to ask about what or which person or people in a question. We can also use them as relative pronouns to connect two phrases or clauses about a person or people to one another.

The difference is who is the pronoun for the subject of a sentence, while whom is the pronoun for the object. Therefore, you only need to figure out if you want to select the pronoun for the sentence’s subject or the object.

When to use who and whom.

To understand when to use who and whom, let’s review the basics of subjects and objects.

In a sentence, the subject is the person or thing doing the action or being described. 

  • Austin is pitching to the board. Austin is the subject; he is doing the pitch. 
  • Isabella wrote the bid. 

The object is the person or thing that receives the action in a sentence.

  • Austin is pitching to the board. The board is the object; they are receiving the pitch. 
  • Isabella wrote the bid

Pronouns allow us to refer to subjects and objects in the sentences without using the noun’s full name. We use pronouns all the time, and usually, it’s only these two tricky ones, who and whom, that cause trouble. You may recall from long-ago grammar lessons that there are different pronouns for subjects and objects.

  • Subjective (sometimes called nominative) pronouns are: I, you (singular), he, she, it, we, you (plural), they, and who.  
  • Objective pronouns are: me, you (singular), him, her, it, us, you (plural), them, and whom.

We can replace the example sentences with pronouns. 

  • He [subjective pronoun] is pitching to them [objective pronoun]
  • She wrote it

If we transform these sentences into questions, we use the interrogative pronouns: who and whom. Let’s revise the previous example to inquire about the subject of the sentence:

  • Austin is pitching to the board.
  • Who is pitching to the board?

Now, let’s inquire about the object of the sentence:

  • Austin is pitching to the board.
  • To whom is Austin pitching?


Ending a sentence with a preposition

Strict grammarians shudder at a sentence ending in a preposition, but a rigid adherence to this rule can make your tone sound pretentious or prissy. 

Examples using who

As a question, we can use who as an interrogative pronoun:

  • Who is heading to the conference next month?
  • Will you let me know who is leading sales this quarter?

As a connector, we can use who as a relative pronoun for people:

  • Jose, who will be joining the team next week, brings ten years of experience. 
  • We need to make sure that whoever leads the meeting is prepared. 

Examples using whom

As a question, we can use whom as an interrogative pronoun:

  • Whom will you be auditing? 
  • Can you tell me to whom you emailed the results?

As a connector, we can use who as a relative pronoun for people:

  • I’ll introduce you to our latest supplier whom I met just last week.
  • Send the files to whomever you can find in the CRM under sales. 

How to remember the difference?

The easiest way to remember the difference is to replace who or whom with another pronoun. It might take some re-wording, but it will help you check if it’s a subject or object, and to choose the right pronoun between who and whom. 

For example, let’s replace who with either a subjective pronoun (they) or an objective pronoun (them) in the example: Who is heading to the conference next month?

  1. They are heading to the conference next month. 
  2. Them are heading to the conference next month. 


It’s clear that option A is the sensical sentence with the subjective pronoun. This check confirms that who, also a subjective pronoun, is the correct word to use. 

As another example, let’s replace whom with either a subjective pronoun (he) or an objective pronoun (him) in the example: Can you tell me to whom you emailed the results?

  1. You emailed the results to he.
  2. You emailed the results to him.


In this case, B is the correct sentence. Employing the objective noun ‘him’ in the response sentence means that the question form needs to be the objective form whom

Strong grammar supports strong business writing.

Navigating and selecting the correct pronouns is critical in business writing. Paying attention to grammatical details reflects your overall business’ attention to detail. It ensures that your words support, not distract from, your content

Mary Cullen

About the author

Mary Cullen

Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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