Who and Whom – difference, usage and example


This article is all about the difference between who and whom with example. We will also learn when to use who and when to use whom. who and whom are used in two places – they’re used in questions and they’re used in relative clauses. First, we’ll talk about questions and then we will come to relative clauses.

When to use who and whom

Here’s the rule with using who and whom – who is used in the place of a subject and whom is used in the place of an object.

Learn more about subject and object pronouns here: What are pronouns with examples

For example “Bruce spoke to Betsy.” In this sentence we say that Bruce is the subject because Bruce does the action which is to speak past tense – spoke. And Betsy is the object because Betsy receives the action. “______ spoke to Betsy?”  we’re asking about the subject “Who spoke to Betsy?”.  “_____ did Bruce speak to?” we want to ask about the object of the sentence “To whom did Bruce speak?”. Note “Who did Bruce speak to?” This is actually correct in speaking and in fact when we speak we don’t commonly use ‘whom.’ In a speech, we almost always use ‘who’ So this means if you are not sure whether to use who or whom just use who and you will be OK.

Questions with who and whom

Remember this simple rule that you can use in all situations to decide whether to use who or whom, and the rule is this – when you’re making a question, think about the answer to that question. If the answer can be him, her or them, you use ‘whom.’ So to this question “To whom did Bruce speak?”, we can say Bruce spoke to him, Bruce spoke to her, Bruce spoke to them. if someone asks “Who spoke to Betsy?” you cannot say him spoke to Betsy, her spoke to Betsy, them spoke to Betsy – that doesn’t sound right. But here, you can say “He spoke to Betsy” or “She spoke Betsy” so If the answer can be he, she or they, use who.

For example  “_____ broke the window?”. Can you say “He broke the window” or “Him broke the window? “Him broke the window” doesn’t sound right “He broke the window” is correct, so “Who broke the window?” is correct. “_____ do you want to see?” the answer would be “I want to see” and then would you say he or him? “I want to see he” or “I want to see him”? “I want to see him” is correct. “Whom do you want to see?” is the correct question.

Relative clauses who and whom with example

Relative clauses simply means that two or more sentences have been combined together. And to combine them together, we use who and whom.

For example “Richard is visiting his parents _____ live in Indiana.”. First of all, let’s split this big sentence into two smaller sentences or clauses. The first is “Richard is visiting his parents.” And the second is ‘His parents live in Indiana.”. And we want to focus on the second sentence, so instead of “his parents”, can you say they or them? Can you say “They live in Indiana” or “Them live in Indiana”? “Them live in Indiana” is wrong. “They live in Indiana” is correct. So, “Richard is visiting his parents who live in Indiana.” Just remember that this is not a question this who just refers to his parents.

 “Her friend _____ is a guitarist, taught her to play the instrument.”. The first sentence – “Her friend is a guitarist” and the second sentence – “Her friend taught her to play the instrument.”. Here, we are interested in the first sentence so we can say “He is a guitarist” or “Him is a guitarist?” “He is a guitarist” is correct so once again we use who. “Her friend, who is a guitarist, taught her to play the instrument.”

“Daphne, _____ you met last week, is my fiancée.”  Well, the first clause actually does not start with Daphne. The first clause starts here. “You met Daphne last week.” And the second clause is “Daphne is my fiancée.” And here, we are interested in the first clause – “You met Daphne” – Daphne is hidden over here – “last week.”. Here, can you say “You met she last week” or “You met her last week”? “You met her last week” is correct and if you remember, ‘her’ is like ‘him’ and ‘them’ So “Daphne, whom you met last week, is my fiancée.”

Who and whom examples