Writing for Business and Pleasure            Home
  Copyright by Stephen Wilbers
                 Contact

Google
 Search
www.wilbers.com

Weekly Error

Change

 

Here’s an idea: Let’s elect the person [whom] we think will do the best job.

 

To

 

Here’s an idea: Let’s elect the person [who] we think will do the best job.

 

Incorrect pronoun case:

Pronouns have four cases:  subjective (as in “I wrote the article”), objective (as in “Give the editor’s name to me”), reflexive (as in “I hurt myself”), and intensive (as in “I do that myself sometimes”).

 

Use who, the subjective case, for subjects and subject complements; use whom, the objective case, for objects.

 

In a sentence with a subordinate clause (one that does not stand alone), the case of the pronoun is determined by its function within the subordinate clause.

 

In the sentence above, “who we think will do the best job” is a subordinate clause.  The pronoun who serves as the subject of the clause.  Even though the pronoun who might appear to serve as an object of the main clause (“Let’s elect the person who. . .”) or as the object of “we think,” it actually serves as the subject of the verb will do, and so it takes the subjective case.

 

Compare, for example, “Give the prize to whoever wins” (whoever is the subject of the verb wins) with “Give the prize to whomever you choose” (whomever is the object of the verb choose).

 

Note, however, that in less formal usage, who and whoever are routinely used in place of whom and whomever, perhaps because of their more relaxed sound.

 

Back to Weekly Tip

See Error Checklist for a compilation of 75 common writing errors.

For more exercises in identifying common errors,
take the M.B.A. exam and
the Punctuation and Grammar Challenges.