Who Versus Whom

Like whom, the pronoun him ends with the letter M. When you're trying to decide whether to use who or whom, ask yourself if the hypothetical answer to the question would contain he or him. If it’s him, you use whom, and they both end with M.

Mignon Fogarty
4-minute read
Episode #530

3. Just "Who"

So when do you use who? If you are asking about the subject of these sentences, then you’d use who

For example, Who loves you? and Who squished Squiggly? In both these cases the one you are asking about is the subject—the one taking action, not the one being acted on. The subjects are the person doing the loving and the person doing the squishing.

4. The Himlich Maneuver

Still too hard to remember? OK, here's the quick and dirty tip that doesn’t make you think about subjects and objects. 

Like whom, the pronoun him ends with the letter M. When you're trying to decide whether to use who or whom, ask yourself if the hypothetical answer to the question would contain he or him. If it’s him, you use whom, and they both end with M.

For example, if the question is Who did you squish? or Whom did you squish?, the answer could be I squished him. You have a him, so you know the right pronoun is whom: Whom did you squish?

That's the trick: If you can answer the question with him, then use whom, and it's easy to remember because they both end with M.

Here’s another one: If the question is Who loves you? or Whom loves you?, a simple answer could be He loves me—not him. In this case, your answer has a he, not a him. No M, so you know the right choice is who.

That trick, which I sometimes call the Himlich maneuver, works because like whom, him is an object pronoun, so you’re using it as a test case for your sentence. If your answer has a him, it’s telling you that you need the object pronoun, whom. So even if you don’t know it, when you use the Himlich maneuver, you’re distinguishing between the subject and the object. Good job.

Related Articles

Whoever or Whomever?

Who Versus Who, With Linking Verbs

Who Versus Whom, in Clauses

Download the Chapter on "Dirty Words" From Grammar Girl's Book

Who versus whom is just one of the many confusing word choices that Mignon Fogarty covers in the "Dirty Words" chapter of her book, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. You can download the chapter by clicking here.

Order a copy of the paperback edition from any of these online retailers or pick one up at your favorite bookstore such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powell’s.

The book is also available in an e-book edition. You can download a copy wherever e-books are sold.

This post was originally published March 9, 2007 and was updated August 17, 2016.

Think you understand the difference between "who" and "whom"? Take the quiz. ⇒


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.