Word Nerd 7: To Whom It May Concern
What’s the trick for knowing when to use “who” and “whom”? Try this. Can you substitute “him” or “her” instead? If that still sounds right—as an objective pronoun—then use “whom.” If it sounds correct with “he” or “she” instead, then it should be “who.”
It’s not easy. Even The New York Times, employer of writers and editors who ought to know better, gets the wrong one into print pretty frequently.
Another bugaboo is the “that/which” prob. For that one, if you use a comma before it, it’s “which.” If you don’t, it’s "that." “Which” leads into a clause. And watch out for “that/who,” too. If you’re referring to a human, it’s “who,” not “that.”
Whom’s up for some practice?
1. She was the third person in a row in the express line (who, whom) had more than 10 items in her basket.
2. He was frequently mistaken for his older brother, (who, whom) he resembled closely.
3. Jennifer Aniston is the one actress (who, that, which) went on Oprah’s show and managed not to reveal anything embarrassing.
4. The marriage contract between Tom and Katie, (that, which) was reported to guarantee her millions of dollars, was just one of the wild rumors floated about the couple.
5. The hurricane (that, which) hit Texas and Louisiana earlier this month brought an influx of travelers to Dallas and Fort Worth, cities (that, which) already were housing thousands of evacuees from Katrina.
6. How do you know (who, whom) to blame for all the trouble in the fruit cellar?
No prizes this week. And don’t post your answers to this. That lets everyone play along. By the way, “lets” and “let’s” are frequently misused. The one with the apostrophe means “let us.”
Response to last week’s contest was great. I’ll try to rustle up more prizes. It’s always fun to win sump’n!