Monday, May 10, 2010

Who vs. whom

I WAS IN COLLEGE, and the journalism instructor was making a point on the blackboard. I raised my hand, as I often did, and put in my two cents' worth, and he explained his thinking. He was right, of course; in this case, who was the way to go.

It's often hard to explain which is right, who or whom, and "experts" are often wrong. Whom is used many times when who would do. Consider:

This was found in a Washington Post column -- Then Hall decided to "rescue" Landry from a sideline full of Hall's former teammates and coaches, from whom he did not part on terrific terms. Instead of grabbing Landry and getting out of there, he became entangled in pushing and shoving. (Opinions differ on whom was more responsible, the Falcons or Hall.) But where were his teammates and coaches? The minute it was obvious Hall was involved in something on the opposing sideline, someone should have jumped in and pulled him out.

There are two "whoms" in this paragraph. The first was fine. Opinions differ on whom was more responsible... To my ear, who was more responsible... works better. In this case, who is part of a phrase, and the nominal (who) works.

Here's another example:

The Vikings, although they won’t say it, need to know Favre’s plans before March 5, when the trading deadline opens, so they would be able to compete with other teams to acquire, for instance, a Donovan McNabb from Philadelphia or a Matt Hasselbeck from Seattle, or whomever they would try to bring in.
I think that whoever they would try to bring in works better.

Whom did the Giants pick with the choices netted in the Shockey trade? Maybe it's just me, but, to my ear but Who did the Giants pick works better.

Some of the residents have a sense of whom Dalkowski was, or might have been. Yes, it should be who, not whom. Who Dalkowski was.

Here's a final example:

But when the Dolphins need to convert a critical third-and-8 play, whom will defenses worry about?

Whom or who? To my ear, it's who. In fact, it's usually who. Unless it's for whom the bell tolls.

As I like to say,  people use whom so often that Pete Townshend's band will become The Whom.

Do you have any examples of whom over who?

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