Today, I’m going to plagiarize. Well, actually, not really. I’m going to pay homage to the woman who originally wrote most of this text (Mignon Fogarty), and then repeat what she wrote. This has to do with the subject of “who vs. whom.”
As I edit books, I am continually confronted with this issue, and lord knows that we hear the rules broken every day. But who among us knows the rule? Mignon Fogarty does. And she explains it very well. As for me, I will never doubt what I know again. She has given me solid grounding in the rule and I’ll never forget it.
Taken from her website, Grammar Girl, http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/who-versus-whom.aspx, this is what she writes:
“First, to know whether to use who or whom, we need to talk about the difference between subjects and objects because you use who when you are referring to the subject of a clause and whom when you are referring to the object of a clause.” Don’t panic. She doesn’t leave us in the lurch with that statement, but goes on to clarify:
“If we think about people, the subject of the sentence is the person doing something, and the object of the sentence is having something done to them.” Subjects do, objects have done to them.
For example, “If I step on Squiggly, then I am the subject [doing the stepping] and Squiggly is the object [being stepped upon by me].”
Still clear as mud? Well she goes on to clarify still further: “Here’s my favorite mnemonic: If I say, ‘I love you,’ you are the object of my affection, and you is the object of the sentence [I am doing (loving) something to you]. I love you. You are the object of my affection and my sentence. It’s like a Valentine’s Day card and grammar mnemonic all rolled into one.”
Finally, Mignon gives a “Quick and Dirty Tip”:
“Like whom, the pronoun him ends with m. 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. That’s the trick: 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 [in the question]. But if you’re trying to ask, ‘Who (whom) stepped on Squiggly?’ the answer would be, ‘He stepped on Squiggly.’ There’s no m, so you know to use who.
“Just remember, him equals whom.”