Mastering ‘Who’ and ‘Whom’: A Mini Lesson with ActiveCampaign

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Ever wondered about the correct usage of ‘who’ and ‘whom’? You’re not alone. It’s a common conundrum that many English language users face. This mini lesson is designed to help you navigate this tricky terrain with ease.

ActiveCampaign, a leading provider of marketing automation, is all about effective communication. And what’s more effective than using language correctly? This lesson isn’t just about grammar—it’s about making your communications more powerful.

So, whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, this mini lesson on ‘who’ and ‘whom’ will be a valuable tool in your arsenal. Let’s dive right in and demystify these commonly confused words.

What is ‘Who’ and ‘Whom’?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of ‘who’ and ‘whom’, it’s vital to comprehend these terms at the base level. So, let’s get started.

‘Who’ and ‘whom’ are pronouns used in English. You may be familiar with pronouns like he, she, they, and it. But ‘who’ and ‘whom’ are unique, as they are interrogative pronouns, and they are employed primarily in questions and subordinate clauses.

Who is often used as a subject pronoun, which refers to the person who carries out the action of a verb. It’s like ‘he,’ ‘she,’ or ‘they.’ When in doubt of when the correct usage of ‘who’ apply, try replacing who with ‘she,’ ‘he,’ or ‘they.’ Here’s an example for clarity:

  • Who ate my sandwich?
  • She ate my sandwich.

Now moving to ‘whom.’ Unlike ‘who,’ it’s used as an object pronoun, which refers to the person the action is being done. ‘Whom’ is usually used after prepositions such as for, to, by, with, and about. The key here is to remember that ‘Whom’ is to ‘who’ as ‘him’ is to ‘he.’ For example:

  • For whom did you save that seat?
  • I saved that seat for him.

Understanding these pronouns and their application might seem a bit tricky at first, but don’t worry. With a bit of practice, their correct usage in daily conversations and written communication will become second nature for you. Your writing accuracy will significantly improve, helping you communicate your messages clearly and effectively, whether you’re a seasoned writer or a beginner.

Understanding the Difference

Digging deeper into the subject, let’s understand the real differences between ‘who’ and ‘whom’. By really grasping the distinction, you’ll gain an edge in your linguistic/grammatical skill set.

Wear the cap of a grammatical detective. As one, you’re breaking down sentences to their grammatical bones. ‘Who’ is your subject pronoun. Think of it as the subject doing the action. For example, in the sentence “Who ate the cookies?” “Who” is the subject carrying out the action of eating.

On the other hand, ‘whom’ is your object pronoun. It’s related to the action but not carrying it out. So, in the sentence “To whom was the letter written?” ‘whom’ is the recipient of the action, but not the doer.

Think about it like this:

  • For ‘Who’:Who is doing the action?
  • For ‘Whom’: The action is done to whom?

Imagine your sentences as railway tracks. ‘Who’ is your engine, propelling the action forward. ‘Whom’, in contrast, is the passenger car. It is involved, but not driving the action.

As Merriam-Webster suggests, replacing ‘whom’ with ‘him’ can make your decision easier. If it doesn’t sound weird to replace ‘whom’ with ‘him’, then you’re likely using ‘whom’ correctly.

Bear in mind, these are thumb rules. Like most things language-related, there are exceptions and nuances. But, as your confidence grows through practice, spotting those deviations becomes part of the thrill.

Many native English speakers often mix ‘who’ and ‘whom’. You’re not alone if you’ve struggled with these tricky pronouns. Recognize it’s a continuous learning process and pat yourself on the back for taking on the challenge.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When you’re navigating the usage of ‘who’ and ‘whom’, it’s easy to stumble over common mistakes. Recognizing and understanding these issues is crucial to improving your grammar skills.

One prevalent error seen is usage of ‘whom’ in the place of ‘who’ as the subject. Remember, ‘who’ should always be used as the subject pronoun. It’s the one doing the action. Consider the sentence: “Whom is going to the store?” In this instance, ‘whom’ is incorrectly taking the place of ‘who’. The correct version is: “Who is going to the store?”

Incorrectly replacing ‘who’ with ‘whom’ after prepositions is another frequent mistake. ‘Whom’ should follow prepositions. For example, in the sentence: “Who did you go to the party with?” The correct usage is: “With whom did you go to the party?”

It’s also easy to get tripped up by sentences involving indirect objects. You’ll often need to use ‘whom’ in these circumstances. Take for example: “Who did you give the book to?” Instead, the correct usage is: “To whom did you give the book?”

Let’s not forget the confusion regarding questions. If you’re not sure which to use, try replacing ‘whom’ with ‘him’. If the sentence makes sense, ‘whom’ is your best bet.

As you continue your journey to master ‘who’ and ‘whom’, keep these common mistakes in mind. With practice, these pitfalls will become less daunting. But bear in mind that even seasoned experts occasionally slip up. The key is constant, mindful practice. Stick with it, and you’ll find your confidence growing. We will be moving forward to explain more advanced grammar concepts related to ‘who’ and ‘whom’ in the coming sections.

Guidelines for Using ‘Who’ and ‘Whom’

Still feeling a bit puzzled when it comes down to using ‘who’ and ‘whom’? You’re not alone. There are a few inherently confusing aspects about these pronouns – but with the right set of guidelines, mastery is possible.

Here are some pointers to ease your journey to ‘who’ and ‘whom’ expertise:

  • ‘Who’ pertains to the subject of the sentence. It refers to the person performing the action. For example, consider the sentence, “Who made the coffee?” In this situation, ‘who’ represents the individual that brewed the coffee.
  • ‘Whom’, on the other hand, pertains to the object of the sentence. This is typically the person or thing receiving the action. An example for here would be, “Whom are you calling?” If you were to answer, it’d be something akin to, “I’m calling Joe”. Joe here, is the one being called. Hence he fits the ‘whom’ bill.

Remember, in question sentences it’s often helpful to answer the question to determine whether ‘who’ or ‘whom’ is appropriate. For example, in response to “Whom are you calling?”, you’d say, “I am calling him”. Since ‘him’ rhymes with ‘whom’, you know you’ve used the right pronoun.

Despite these tips, you might occasionally find yourself staring at mismatched sentence constructions. Don’t beat yourself up. Even experts get confused when it comes to ‘who’ versus ‘whom’. It’s the constant practice that’ll make it easier over time. So, keep going back to these guidelines, practice plenty, and you’ll notice the difference in your sentence construction skills. There won’t be room for ‘whom’ in a ‘who’ spot, and vice versa, before you know it.

Putting it into Practice

Now that you’ve learned the difference between ‘who’ and ‘whom’, let’s put your knowledge to the test. This part’s the meat of our mini lesson and will have you flexing your grammatical muscles in no time!

Let’s begin by integrating ‘who’ and ‘whom’ into simple sentences. Remember the golden rule: use ‘who’ when it’s the subject of the sentence, and ‘whom’ when it’s the object.

Consider these examples:

  • “Who is going to the store?” Here ‘who’ is the subject of the sentence.
  • “To whom was the letter written?” In this case, ‘whom’ is the object of the sentence.

Start by forming sentences like these, and in a short while you’ll notice a natural feel for when to use ‘who’ and ‘whom’.

Let’s level up. Answering questions like “Who did what?” can help you determine whether ‘who’ or ‘whom’ should be used. If the reply includes ‘he’ or ‘she’, you need ‘who’. If ‘him’ or ‘her’ fits in your answer, it’s ‘whom’ you should be using.

Here are some scenarios:

QuestionAnswerCorresponding Pronoun
Who wrote the book?He wrote the book.Who
You gave the book to whom?I gave the book to him.Whom

This ActiveCampaign lesson is aimed at helping you use ‘who’ and ‘whom’ more accurately. Take these guidelines to heart, practice using ‘who’ and ‘whom’ in your daily conversations or while writing an email, and you’re sure to see growth in your command over these often-confusing pronouns.

In the end, your confidence while using these pronouns is what will make you an expert. So get out there and practice, learn and grow with every conversation you initiate or join. You’re on the right track and doing an amazing job.


So, you’ve now got the tools to master ‘who’ and ‘whom’ in English. It’s all about understanding the subject and object in a sentence. Don’t forget the trick of answering the question to determine the right choice. With regular practice, you’ll be using these pronouns like a pro in no time. Remember, it’s your confidence and continual practice that will make you an expert. So, go ahead, flex those grammar muscles in your daily conversations and writings. You’re now one step closer to perfecting your English grammar skills.

Q1: What is the main difference between ‘who’ and ‘whom’ in English?

‘Who’ and ‘whom’ serve different roles in a sentence. ‘Who’ is used as the subject, while ‘whom’ is used as the object.

Q2: How can one determine whether to use ‘who’ or ‘whom’?

A simple way to determine which pronoun to use is by answering the question. If the answer is “he/she,” use ‘who.’ If the answer is “him/her,” use ‘whom.’

Q3: Why is it important to use ‘who’ and ‘whom’ correctly?

Using ‘who’ and ‘whom’ correctly enhances your language skills and shows a good understanding of English grammar. It can also make your writing and speech clearer and more professional.

Q4: What does the article suggest for mastering the use of ‘who’ and ‘whom’?

The article emphasizes the importance of practice and confidence. Regular use of these pronouns in communication or writing will help in mastering their correct use.

Q5: Where can I use these pronouns in my daily life?

‘Who’ and ‘whom’ can be used in daily conversations, emails, essays, reports, and many other forms of written and spoken communication. Practice is the key.

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