|Exercise||Look at these sentences and decide which in each pair you think is the more natural in spoken English - A or B, then click on "Show my comments".|
|1.||A||With whom did you go to the cinema?|
|B||Who did you go to the cinema with?|
|2.||A||For whom is the party being held?|
|B||Who is the party being held for?|
|3.||A||With whom are you getting a lift home?|
|B||Who are you getting a lift home with?|
|4.||A||For whom are all these party hats?|
|B||Who are all these party hats for?|
The he = who, him = whom theory
- Who or whom went to the pizza shop?
- he went to the pizza shop, so according to this theory the question must be:
Who went to the pizza shop?
- Who or whom did Bob go with?
He went with him, so according to this theory the question must be:
Whom did Bob go with? - or as they'd probably prefer - With whom did Bob go?
The basic problem with the him = whom idea.
It's all a matter of register
Only part of the story
- direct questions
DO - Who(m) did you invite to the party?
prep - Who did he come with?
(or in very formal language - With whom did she come?)
- indirect questions
DO - She asked him who(m) he had invited.
prep - She asked him who he had come with.
(or in very formal language - She asked him with whom had he come?)
- defining relative clauses
DO - The candidate who(m) we select must be able to start immediately.
prep - The man who she's talking to is our new neighbour
(more formal - The man to whom she's talking is our new neighbour.)
- In defining relative clauses, we can leave out the object pronoun altogether in spoken language, and usually do:
- DO - The candidate we select must be able to start immediately.
prep - The man she's talking to is our new neighbour.
- non-defining relative clauses
DO - This is Martin, who(m) I’ve asked to to take over Peter’s old job.
prep - This is Peter, who you'll be working with.
(more formalThis is Peter, with whom you'll be working.)
- Non-defining clauses are usually used in written English, and sometimes whom might be more appropriate here.
When to use whom
In formal writing
The one time when you really have to use whom.
- The class had twenty students, many of whom had travelled quite far.
- There were twenty students, for half of whom this was their first visit to Britain.
- We'll be serving only meat dishes. Anyone for whom this is a problem should contact me as soon a spossible.
- this arguably sounds better than:
- We'll be serving only meat dishes. Anyone who this is a problem for should contact me as soon a spossible.
What EFL grammar books say
- Arrant Pedantry - 12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes About Grammar Mistakes Makes
- Grammar.net - home of the infographic
- The Oatmeal - another (really attractive) infographic illustrating the him = whom 'rule', suggesting it makes your language 'classy and distinguished'
- Ragan.com - another version of the him = whom 'rule' without any discussion of register