[Contents] [Index] [Back] [Glossary] [ESL] [<<] [>>]

Pronouns: Who Whom, Whoever Whomever

With pronouns used to form questions (interrogative pronouns) or to introduce a noun clause, distinguish between subject and object forms in all formal writing situations.

  Subject Object
  who whom (or, informally, who)
  whoever whomever

In a question, ask yourself whether the pronoun is the subject or object. Test the pronoun's function by rephrasing the question as a statement, using a personal pronoun in place of who or whom.
  Examples Who wrote that enthusiastic letter?
He wrote that enthusiastic letter.
[Subject: Use who.]

Whoever could have written it?
She could have written it.
[Subject: Use whoever.]

Who[m] were they describing?
They were describing him.
[Object: whom (formal); though who is common in speech and writing.]
Noun Clauses

To introduce a dependent clause, determine whether to use the subject or object form by the pronoun's function in the clause. Ignore expressions such as I think or I know when they follow the pronoun; they do not affect the subject or object form of the pronoun.
  Examples They want to know who runs the business.
[subject of clause = who]

They want to know who I think runs the business.
[subject of clause = I]

They want to know whom the manager reports to.
[object of to know= whom]

I will hire whoever is qualified.
[subject of clause = whoever]

I will hire whomever my boss recommends.
[object of recommends = whomever]
See also
Sentence Problems: Pronouns
Constructing Sentences: Clauses
Relative Clauses and Relative Pronouns: Appropriate Use