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Difference between 'Who & 'Whom'.

Do you know when are Interrogative pronouns ‘Who’ and ‘ Whom’ used? There is a difference in their usage in Spoken and Written English. Let’s discover…..

1. ‘Who’ is usually used as the object pronoun while asking questions.

e.g. Who did you meet in school?

Do you know what an Object pronoun is ? Let me explain.

We call a pronoun ‘an object pronoun’ when it is used as an object in a sentence. For example, I have seen him in school. Here in this sentence ‘him’ is an object pronoun.

Let us now go to the use of ‘Who’ in a different situation.

2. In spoken English we usually make use of ‘who’ and add a preposition at the end of the sentence.

For example,

  • Who should I address the letter to?

  • He asked me who I had discussed the matter with.

3. On the other hand, Whom is not used very often in spoken English. The use of whom as the pronoun after prepositions is very formal: It means In a very formal context ( written or spoken) we can use ‘whom’ preceded by a preposition as shown in the example.

  • a)To whom should I report the matter?

  • b)He asked me with whom I had discussed it.

  • c) To whom did you speak yesterday?

4. Who is a personal pronoun in a relative clause and can be used as the subject or object.

  • The person who lives next to me is very honest. (who is the subject)

  • Sam is a teacher who you met yesterday. (who is the object)

5. Whom is always the object in a sentence. It represents a person that is the object of the relative clause. Whom is mostly formal and mostly used in a written style.

  • For example, the person whom I met yesterday informed me everything in detail.

6. In defining relative clauses the object pronoun whom is not often used. You can either use who or that, or leave out the pronoun completely. Let us understand with the help of an example.

  • The family __________ I met at the airport were very kind.(who/that/whom).

You can either write The family who I met at the airport were very kind. Or you can also write the family that I met at the airport were very kind. Or, You can leave out who or that completely and say The family I met at the airport were very kind. This structure is very common in informal spoken English context.


. In non-defining relative clauses ‘who’ in informal context and whom in formal situations is used. But like in defining relative clause we do not use…... ‘that’ … non-defining clause and the pronoun cannot be left out: Let us understand with an example.

  • Ex: Our doctor, who/whom we all liked very much, retired last week. We can use who or whom in a more formal context in this sentence.

Remember that this pattern is not used very much in spoken English.
Do watch our concept video on Defining and Non-defining relative Clauses.

Let us recap now.

  • Whom asks about a person but only when it is an object - it's an object pronoun. It's quite formal and it's used more in writing

  • whereas ‘who’ is used both as a subject and as an object in a sentence. ‘Who’ is used mostly in spoken English with a preposition at the end of a sentence.

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