Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ask the Editor


Every 1st and 3rd Thursday, I'll take your editorial questions. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and more! I will showcase questions and answers (with permission) once I get questions as well. To ask a question, please fill out the form below.

I've been a freelance editor since November 2010. If I don't know the answer, I will find it.  

CD Meentens asks "When would you use "who" and when would you use "whom"? What is the correct usage for each?

Who and whom are both pronouns. Who is a subject pronoun. Whom is an object pronoun. That only means something if you know what pronoun, subject, and object means. Grammar Girl has a great lesson on “who vs whom” that you can read here

Now the way I think of it when writing and editing is how I can replace “who” and “whom” with.

Who = he/she/they
Whom = him/her/them

If you can plug in he/she/they, then you have a subject and it should be “who.”

If you can plug in him/her/them in the sentence, then it’ll be “whom.”

For example: She loves him.
If I don’t know the “she”, then I can ask “Who loves him?”
If I don’t know the “him”, then I can ask “She loves whom?” or “Whom does she love?”

Of course, in writing dialogue, it can be trickier. Most people do confuse who/whom, so if your character doesn’t know the difference, then you’d probably use “who” even when grammatically it calls for “whom.” Sometimes when I am editing dialogue for someone else, I will mark it the correct way in a comment, but let the author know it is up to them to be grammatical or not.


Matthew MacNish said...

You make an excellent point, because very few people actually use perfect grammar when speaking. Great breakdown, thanks, Cherie!

C D Meetens said...

Thanks, Cherie! As I said before, your examples make this so much more clear for me. I might even get them the right way round now ;).

Christine Rains said...

Oh, that does help. Thank you!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Oh, great examples, thank you!