Whom or Who? Lessons that I had to learn!
Brother John Asquith and Brother Paul Scott have ruined my leisurely Bible reading with their demand to examine the punctuation, grammar and proper English in the King James Bible. I can no longer read the Bible with leisure and learn the practical application of each verse as it applies to me, but now I have to look at why the verse is written the way it is written, and is punctuated the way it is punctuated, and reads the way that it reads. To them, I am grateful for this awareness.
In my leisurely reading of I Kings 20, I was jolted awake and to full alertness by a simple word. Whom! In verse 14, Ahab said, By Whom? I frantically searched my ever aging mental database of English rules and reasoning’s, and I could not recall the uses of whom and who in their proper place, and so this is my research project, and the hints that I was able to find to help me. For those of you that learned these rules in first grade, I would ask for a little bit of grace in your reading of my elementary grammar research.
Rules for whom and who:
Whom – Always used as the object of a verb or a preposition
Genesis 3:12 - And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
Who – Always used as the subject in a sentence
Genesis 3:11 - And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
In verse 12, we see that the object of the second person singular verb gavest, is the word whom. By definition whom is used correctly because the woman is the subject of the sentence, but whom is the object of the verb. If we used the word who in this sentence, instead of the word whom, then the subject of the sentence would be in doubt, because you would have two subjects in this sentence, which would cause great confusion. The woman, and who would both be subjects and although this reads easily, it is bad grammar.
And the man said, the woman (subject) who (subject) thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
In verse 11, we see the subject of the sentence, who. According to rule #2, the subject who is used correctly because there is no verb or preposition to direct you to the object. The word who is a standalone subject in this sentence, and so if we used the word whom in the sentence, instead of the word who, then the object of the sentence would be changed.
And he said, “Whom told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The one thing that jumped out at me in this sentence, is the subject change from who to naked. When whom is used with the verb, told, then whom cannot be the subject of the sentence. Bad grammar changes the subject which completely changes the sentence. One of the most confusing public speakers that I ever had to listen to, could not properly identify the objects in their sentences. The Bible does not cause such confusion. When these rules of grammar are properly applied, the reading and hearing of such grammar brings joy to those that love this precious language.
How can I easily know when to use Who or Whom?
How can you tell when your pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition? Try substituting “he” or “she” and “him” or “her.” If “he” or “she” fits, you should use who. If “him” or “her” fits, you should use whom. Keep in mind that you may have to temporarily rearrange the sentence a bit while you test this idea
Who/whom borrowed my Bible?
Try substituting “she” and “her”:
She borrowed my Bible.
Her borrowed my Bible.
“She” works and “her” doesn’t. That means the word you want to use is who.
Who borrowed my Bible? Is the correct question.
Who/whom should I talk to about purchasing a new Bible?
Try substituting “he” and “him”:
I should talk to he about purchasing a new Bible.
I should talk to him about purchasing a new Bible.
“Him” works and “He” doesn’t, so the word you need is whom.
Whom should I talk to about purchasing a new Bible?
You can also use questions to determine when to use who and when to use whom. Are you talking about someone who is doing something?
Tim drives their minivan to church. You are talking about someone doing something, so use who in your question.
Who drives their minivan to church?
Correct. Who (or he) refers to Tim and he is the subject in this sentence.
The minivan is driven to church by Tim.
This is incorrect because, the subject of the sentence (minivan) is not performing the action of driving. Use whom in your question to rightly identify the object in this sentence.
By whom is the minivan driven to church?
Isaiah 6:8 - Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
Example verse for learning: Also, I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Him shall I send, and he will go for us? Then said I, here am I; send me. (I love the semicolon here).
If our grammar is incorrect, then our rule of he and him would make this sentence sound silly.
“He shall I send, and him will go for us.” 200 years ago this verse would have sounded silly to any educated, English speaking man if he had heard “Who shall I send, and whom will go for us”.
Shandayln Allen writes, “If you think the word whom sounds awkward or prissy, you are not alone. Many people don’t use whom in casual speech or writing. Others use it only in well-established phrases such as “to whom it may concern.” Some people never use it.
I intend to use it, and use it correctly.