The dreaded who vs. whom debate! I am asked about this one a lot, and even I get tripped up on which one to use.
While many people, including writers, believe whom will eventually fall out of use, that time has not arrived, so for now, we will continue to question the correct usage of these two words.
Let’s start with who. It is a pronoun that is used when referring to people and animals.
Correct: The animal who dug the hole.
Incorrect: The animal that dug the hole.
Who is used as the subject of a sentence. It replaces the words he or she.
Example: The girl WHO kicked the ball didn’t realize the toddler wasn’t paying attention. (SHEdidn’t realize…)
Example: They know WHO you are. (They know who HE is.) You need to rework this sentence in order to determine which word to use.
Whom is used as the object of a verb or a preposition. Whom replaces the words him or her.
Example: The toddler to WHOM the ball was kicked did not see it coming and didn’t catch the ball. (The ball was kicked to HIM.) In this case, whom is used as the object of the preposition to.
Example: Whom are you referring to? (You are referring to him.) In this case, you need to reword the question into a statement to determine which word to use.