I have decided to start a weekly blog post here on my editing blog called Inspirational Mondays specifically to inspire writers because, after all, editors need writers to keep writing. Otherwise, what would we have to edit? I chose Mondays in particular because it seems we could all use a little inspirational pick-me-up on Monday.
This week’s Inspirational Mondays inspirational quote:
Imagery does not occur on the writer’s page, it occurs in the reader’s mind.
– Stephen King
This is the second week of a series on commonly confused grammar rules I call Demystifying Grammar. Wouldn’t it be great if we understood those confusing and fickle little rules so we could focus on writing? I think so too. It has been said that the English language is one of the hardest to learn, so don’t worry if you need a little help now and then. Welcome to the first week of Demystifying Grammar. Those of you who slept through English class pay attention.
Who vs. Whom
This rule is confusing, and you can’t always use the “whichever sounds best” solution that sometimes works. Fortunately, the rule is easy to follow once you understand the difference between who and whom.
- Who is used as the subject of a verb or as the complement of a linking verb. It’s what is known as a nominative pronoun, or the subject of a sentence.
Who threw the ball and broke the window?
It was Billy who threw the ball that broke the window.
- Whom is used as the object of the verb or the object of a preposition. It’s what is known as an objective pronoun, or the direct object.
You asked whom to go the movies?
He’s already going to the dance with whom?
The bottom line: use who if it can be replaced with “he”; if “him” fits better, use whom.
- If you are struggling with which one to use in a particular sentence, it will help to split the sentence in order to see it.
It was Billy | who (he) threw the ball that broke the window.
You asked whom (him) | to go the movies?
Sometimes in dialogue, purposeful misuse can bring authenticity to a character as correct usage has the potential to sound too formal. When in doubt, just rewrite the sentence and avoid it altogether.