Whoever vs whomever
Posted on 4 March 2014 by Lucy Gregory
Choosing between whoever and whomever is quite tricky, and the two words are often used incorrectly.
Luckily, English speakers are moving away from ‘whomever’ precisely for this reason. In another generation it will probably be consigned to the history books and we’ll all use ‘whoever’ in every context.
In the meantime, my advice is to rewrite your sentence to avoid using either word if you can. It will save you a lot of time and stress about potentially getting it wrong.
If you do persist, here’s some guidance.
Who and whom
‘Who’ is the subject of the verb – the equivalent of using ‘he’ or ‘she’. If you could rewrite the sentence using ‘he’, then the correct word is ‘who’.
‘Whom’ is the object of the verb – the equivalent of using ‘him’ or ‘her’. If you could rewrite the sentence using ‘him’, then the correct word is ‘whom’.
Let’s have a look at some examples.
This is the man who/whom I am dating.
I’m dating him.
ANSWER: This is the man whom I am dating.
Who/whom do you think you are?
He thinks he is superman.
ANSWER: Who do you think you are?
To who/whom it may concern…
It concerns him.
ANSWER: To whom it may concern…
Whoever / whomever
Choosing between ‘whoever’ and ‘whomever’ is slightly more complex.
You now need to substitute two words.
If you need to use ‘him’ and then ‘he’, the correct word is ‘whoever’.
If you use ‘him’ twice, the correct word is ‘whomever’.
Time for some examples.
Send the invitation to whoever/whomever wants it.
Send the invitation to him. He wants it. (him and he)
ANSWER: Send the invitation to whoever wants it.
We will commission whoever/whomever you suggest to do the job.
We will commission him. You suggest him. (him and him)
ANSWER: We will commission whomever you suggest to do the job.
I have tried to explain this murky grammar mess as clearly and succinctly as I can. If any of my discerning readers would like to contribute to or amend this post, please do comment below!