Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

On twitter, there's a "who to follow" button on the upper side of the screen. Shouldn't it be "whom to follow"?

This page suggests that whom is the correct usage in a case like this.

share|improve this question
1  
Possible duplicate of Using "who" and "whom" –  F'x Apr 2 '11 at 19:17

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Whom to contact is the standard way of saying that. This was amply discussed in many cases on this site, including there and there.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the links :) –  Mahmoud Hossam Apr 2 '11 at 19:38

Let's start by taking the truncated phrase and expanding it to a longer more recognisable sentence, while comparing it with another example of the same structure.

What to do - what is one to do? - what should one do? - what should I do?

Whom to follow - whom is one to follow? - whom should one follow? - whom should I follow?

Here, the answer would be 'you should follow her/him', which means that the 'whom' in the question is referring to the object in the answer.

That makes 'whom to follow' correct, since 'whom' should be used in objective cases and 'who' in subjective.

(since the title 'whom to follow' is not given a question mark - it could also be expanded thus, though it is a little more complicated than the example I gave at first:

What to do. - what one is to do - what one should do - this is what one should do - one should do this - you should do this

Whom to follow. - whom one is to follow - whom one should follow - he is a person whom one should follow - one should follow him - you should follow him

again, the expansion resolves itself with 'whom' referring to the object.)

share|improve this answer

"Whom", where it is used at all, generally belongs to a somewhat formal register, particularly when it is not used after a preposition. (I would go even further and argue that it's basically an artificial invention[1] and not even part of "natural" English.)

So one might actually argue that on Twitter, it shouldn't be "Whom to follow", because that would be of an inappropriately formal register for the context

[1] Just to clarify in view of comments below: once upon a time, English did indeed genuinely have an overt case system and any native speaker would have naturally acquired and systematically used that overt case system, just as happens in German, Dutch, Russian etc today (and just as in those languages today, there were surely some speaker-to-speaker variations 'around the edges' in precisely what case form occurred where, but as a system it was stable). But that's essentially irrelevant. As the language stands to today, I suspect that the who/whom distinction is an artificial invention.

share|improve this answer
3  
The dative form of "who" is most certainly not an artificial invention. It's as venerable as it gets. Next thing you tell me, "me" is not part of "natural" English, either. –  RegDwigнt Apr 4 '11 at 9:18
2  
'whom' can be seen to date back as far as Old English and came from the same Germanic root as 'who' (hwa - hwam). Given how much of a mixed bag the EngLang is, I don't think it could be much more 'natural' a part than that. –  Karl Apr 4 '11 at 9:22

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.