The usage of Who and whom
Mind Our English - thestar.com.my
Co-ordinated by Jane F. Ragavan
PLEASE explain how to use “who” and “whom”. Are the sentences correct?
1. Whom are they waiting for?
2. Whom do you I saw when I opened the door?
3. Whom are they referring to?
4. Whom do you think you are? – Lim Hian
“Who” is the subject pronoun and “whom” is the object pronoun. However, in modern British English, “who” is more frequently used as both subject and object pronouns, except after a preposition, and in formal speech or writing.
1. “Whom are they waiting for?” is correct, but too formal. “Whom” here is the object of the preposition “for”. “Who are they waiting for?” is more commonly used.
2. Your second sentence is ungrammatical. Did you mean “Whom did I see when I opened the door?” Here, “whom” is the object of the verb “see”. It is, however, more common to say “Who did I see when I opened the door?”
3. This question is similar in structure to question 1. Although “Whom are they referring to?” is correct, it is too formal. “Who are they referring to?” is more often used.
4. “Who do you think you are?” is the correct sentence, because “who” is the complement, not the object of the verb “are” (a form of the verb “be”).
There are well-known expressions, however, which use “whom” rather than who, but “whom” in these expressions come after prepositions, e.g. “To Whom It May Concern” written at the top of a reference for a job or scholarship, and “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, originally written by John Donne for a sermon in the 17th century and used by Ernest Hemingway in the 20th century as the title of one of his novels.