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Alternative forms[edit]


Old English hwam



whom (the singular and plural objective case of who)

  1. (formal) What person or people; which person or people, as the object of a verb.
    Whom did you ask?
    • 1960, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing, chapter XVIII:
      “Oh?” she said. “So you have decided to revise my guest list for me? You have the nerve, the – the –” I saw she needed helping out. “Audacity,” I said, throwing her the line. “The audacity to dictate to me who I shall have in my house.” It should have been “whom”, but I let it go. “You have the –” “Crust.” “– the immortal rind,” she amended, and I had to admit it was stronger, “to tell me whom” – she got it right that time – “I may entertain at Brinkley Court and who” – wrong again – “I may not.”
  2. (formal) What person or people; which person or people, as the object of a preposition.
    To whom are you referring?  With whom were you talking?
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 1, The Celebrity:
      The stories did not seem to me to touch life. They were plainly intended to have a bracing moral effect, and perhaps had this result for the people at whom they were aimed.
    • 1922, Ben Travers, chapter 1, A Cuckoo in the Nest[1]:
      He read the letter aloud. Sophia listened with the studied air of one for whom, even in these days, a title possessed some surreptitious allurement.
    • 1960, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing, chapter I:
      “A very hearty pip-pip to you, old ancestor,” I said, well pleased, for she is a woman with whom it is always a privilege to chew the fat. “And a rousing toodle-oo to you, you young blot on the landscape,” she replied cordially.
  3. Him; her; them (used as a relative pronoun to refer to a previously mentioned person or people.)
    He's a person with whom I work.;   We have ten employees, half of whom are carpenters.
    • 1935, George Goodchild, chapter 1, Death on the Centre Court:
      “Anthea hasn't a notion in her head but to vamp a lot of silly mugwumps. She's set her heart on that tennis bloke [] whom the papers are making such a fuss about.”
    • 1960, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing, chapter I:
      The eminent brain specialist to whom she alluded was a man I would not have cared to lunch with myself, our relations having been on the stiff side since the night at Lady Wickham's place in Hertfordshire when, acting on the advice of my hostess's daughter Roberta, I had punctured his hot-water bottle with a darning needle in the small hours of the morning. Quite unintentional, of course.

Usage notes[edit]

whom is only used as an object, whereas who is always used where a subject is required. In other words, whom may be thought of as being similar to us, them, etc, whereas who may be thought of as being similar to we, they, etc.

However, in both spoken and most written language, who is also often used as an object in place of whom. This makes who similar to you and it which also use the same form for subjects and objects.

Some prescriptivists regard such usage as incorrect, and insist on using whom to maintain a distinction between subjects and objects. This makes the distinction between who and whom comparable to the distinction between we and us, or between they and them.

To some speakers (especially in US English), the use of whom is characteristic of a formal style. To some of these speakers, whom may sound stilted in informal conversation. Whom is more common in UK English, particularly after a preposition (with whom, from whom, etc).

Derived terms[edit]


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