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3 min read
Amanda Miller
October 6, 2023
Reading time
3 min read

The difference between "who" and "whom"

This article explains the difference between "who" and "whom" in English grammar. It provides guidance on proper usage, along with practical tips to discern between the two in various contexts.
The difference between "who" and "whom"

The difference between "who" and "whom"

Got a minute? Let's talk about "who" vs "whom" usage in English grammar Both sound quite similar, but they have different jobs in a sentence. "Who" is like the star of the show, doing the main action, while "whom" is on the receiving end of that action. Sound confusing? No worries! We're here to break it down for you.

The star of the show: "Who"

"Who" is a subject pronoun, a cornerstone in the English language. The term “subject pronoun” might sound like grammatical jargon, but it simply means that "who" stands in for the person (or entity) primarily responsible for the action in a sentence.

In a drama, think of "who" as the lead actor, always in the limelight, actively driving the story forward. This role in a sentence allows "who" to help us identify or inquire about the main player in any scenario.

A hero standing proudly on a hill

Example: "Who baked these cookies?"

In this question, the main action is baking, and we're curious about the person responsible for it — essentially, the chef or the baker. Just as you'd wonder who the protagonist of a movie is, here, you're seeking the individual behind the action.

The one receiving the action: "Whom"

Shifting our focus, we have "whom," an object pronoun. Again, this might sound technical, but in layman's terms, this means "whom" represents the individual on the other end of an action.

If "who" is the lead actor, think of "whom" as the supporting character. This character, while not the main hero, plays a pivotal role, interacting with and being influenced by the lead. Their role is more passive, often impacted by actions rather than initiating them.


Example: "For whom are these cookies?"

With this question, we've shifted our attention. Instead of the baker, we're now intrigued by the recipient. Who gets to enjoy these delicious treats? Just as in a film where a main character might offer support or assistance to others, here we're concerned about who stands to benefit or receive something.

Additional tips

The answer trick: This trick is like a quick reflex test for your grammar. When posed with a question, think about how you might answer it.

Man thinking

By figuring out the response in your mind, you can easily deduce the correct choice between "who" and "whom." Specifically, if the answer aligns with subject pronouns like "he," "she," or "they," then your go-to should be "who." Conversely, if object pronouns such as "him," "her," or "them" seem apt, it's a clear sign to employ "whom."



  • "Who made the coffee?" (The action of making is being done by someone, so the reply would be "He made it.")
  • "Whom did you give the coffee to?" (Here, the emphasis is on the recipient of an action. Thus, the response is, "I gave it to her.")


The preposition pointer: Prepositions are words that link nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words in a sentence. They often indicate directions, locations, time, or manner.

Man pointing

A golden rule in traditional English grammar is that "whom" often partners up with prepositions. When you spot words like "to," "by," "for," or "with," they act as signals pointing towards the use of "whom". Being alert to these signals can be a game-changer in ensuring grammatical accuracy.



  • "The lady with whom I spoke." (Here, the word "with" acts as a beacon signaling that "whom" is the appropriate choice.)
  • "The kids to whom the gifts were given." (Again, "to" serves as a precursor, guiding us to opt for "whom" over "who.")

Today's English: Who's using "whom"?

Nowadays, many people just use "who" for everything, especially when chatting with friends. Plus, when English mixes with other languages, like German, things can get a bit mixed up. But if you want to sound super correct, especially in serious situations, knowing the difference can be a big win. 


The whole "who" vs "whom" thing can be a bit confusing, but with these tips, you'll get the hang of it in no time. Whether you're writing something formal or just talking with friends, knowing this small difference can make your English sound sharp. So, next time you're about to ask a question, take a moment to think: "who" or "whom?"