Saturday, 17 April 2010 10:46
Don’t do math (can’t). But do do grammar. I believe in grammar—its rules for clarity of expression—so others can make sense of what we’re trying to say. (Notice I violated grammar here…because I can. I’m so good…the grammar police gave me a pass.)
Nonetheless . . . here’s one grammatical rule that continually irritates me:
WHO \ WHOM—the M Conundrum
THIS? — Give the award to WHOEVER deserves it.
Or this? — Give the award to WHOMEVER deserves it.
THIS? — Give the award to those WHO you think deserve it.
Or this? — Give the award to those WHOM you think deserve it.
The who / whom embroglio is totally overrated. Clarity can be achieved perfectly well without that niggling little ”m.” Who? Whom? Does it matter? We get the point.
Read at your own peril . . .
Answer: Give the award to WHOEVER deserves it.
“Whomever” is not the prepositional object of “to.” Rather, WHOEVER is the subject of a dependent clause, “whoever deserves it.” The entire clause is the prepositional object. Phew!
Answer: Give the award to those WHO you think deserve it.
“Whom” is not the object of “you think…whom.” “You think” is parenthetical…you can remove it altogether. So the “who” becomes a relative pronoun for “those” and the subject of the relative clause “who deserve it.”
See what I mean? So much ink spilled over a measly “m”! The rules of grammar, in this particular case, are so arcane—it’s like trying to figure out the oyster fork from the fish fork at an Edith Wharton dinner party.
So here’s my personal campaign for a better world: let’s drop the m from whom!
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