Take me, for example. More than two years ago I considered myself
sufficiently educated on the use of "whom" to write a column about
it. Then, last week, I learned that I've been missing something all
If you don't know how to use the word "whom," allow me to suggest
that you turn the page. Because what I'm about to write is iron-clad
evidence that you shouldn't even bother to learn.
People who already understand the basics of "whom" know it's an
object, whereas "who" is a subject. You use "whom" the same way you
would use "me," "him," "her," "them" or "us." You use "who" the same
way you would use "I," "he," "she," "they" or "we." Pronouns in the
latter group perform the action in a sentence, "I threw the ball."
Those in the former group are the object of an action. "I threw the
ball to him."
Simple, huh? It gets a little trickier when it's in the middle of
a sentence where it's both an object and a subject. "I wanted to know
who was looking for me." "We will check the tickets of whoever is in
attendance." Here's the rule: "whom" and "whomever" are never the
subject of any verb in a sentence. Whenever they're both an object
and a subject, choose the subject form.
Isn't that simple? Don't you want to just run over to the water
cooler and start dazzling your co-workers this very minute with your
easy mastery of "whom," perhaps working it into a pop culture
conversation by saying, "Drew Barrymore is the one whom I love"?
Not so fast. First, answer this: If it's correct to say, "Drew
Barrymore is the one whom I love," would it stay the same if you
threw in "it is," as in, "Drew Barrymore is the one whom it is I
If you don't know the answer, don't feel bad. William F. Buckley
Jr., who has published a book on language, has been busted getting
this one wrong. Here's a clue: When someone calls on the phone and
asks for you, why do you say, "This is she" instead of "This is her"?
If you know the term "predicate nominative," you're ahead of the
class and on your way to a rare and pointless understanding of how to
use the word "whom."
For those who don't know, the "predicate nominative" (I hear the