Legal Writing Series: Who Versus Whom

Legal Writing Series: Who Versus Whom-0

Legal Writing Series: Who Versus Whom

Because lawyers are known to be wordy, there is a current trend to put the ease in legalese. Even Alan Siegel talks about it in his TED talk “Let’s Simplify Legal Jargon.” Dealing with legalese is one thing, but what about the simple grammar that we use in both the legal profession and in our personal communications. We should be getting it write…er…right in both private and corporate worlds.

One of the biggest grammar challenges for me is telling the difference not only between, but also when to use, “who” and “whom.” So, I was happy to see a Quick and Dirty tip from Grammar Girl’s, “Who Versus Whom” explaining the difference and proper use of each word.

Using “Whom”

When you use “whom,” you are referring to the object of a sentence. For example, “Whom did you jump on?” or “Whom do I love?” – both referring to the object, the person who is being jumped upon and the person who is the object of someone’s love.

Using “Who”

When you use “who” you are refering to the subject of a sentence. If, for example, you asked “Who jumped on Joe?” or “Who loves you?” You are asking about the subject that is taking action, not the subject being acted upon.

If you are still confused, here’s a quick and dirty tip from Grammar Girl:

“When you’re trying to decide whether to use “who” or “whom,” ask yourself if the answer to the question would be “he” or “him.” If you can answer the question being asked with “him,” then use “whom,” and it’s easy to remember because they both end with “m.” For example, if you’re trying to ask, “Who (or whom) do you love?” The answer would be “I love him.” “Him” ends with an “m,” so you know to use “whom.”

But if you are trying to ask, “Who (or whom) stepped on Squiggly?” the answer would be “He stepped on Squiggly.” There’s no “m,” so you know to use “who.”

So that’s the quick and dirty trick: if you can’t remember that you use “whom” when you are referring to the object of the sentence, just remember that “him” equals “whom.”

If you want to practice your pronoun skills, you can take the “Who Versus Whom Quiz” here.



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