English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
What's the rule for using “who” or “whom”?
With who vs. With whom

Are “by whom?” and “who by?” perfect equivalents?

I have the feeling that the use of “who by?” is just a way of avoiding use “whom” but I have no evidence or proof. The anglophone people I talk to hardly use “whom”.

Are both expressions equally used, or is the difference between them only regional?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Barrie England, RegDwigнt Feb 8 '12 at 17:13

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

You may find the answer here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/56/… – Barrie England Feb 8 '12 at 15:13
Voting to close too, even though I've answered. Can't resist an opportunity to knock the 'whom' fetish. – Barrie England Feb 8 '12 at 17:12
@BarrieEngland I don't think is a “exact duplicate“; my question is more about “who by?” as a replacement for “whom”, not about “whom” usage. – pferor Feb 8 '12 at 17:33
@BarrieEngland, as pferor says, this is definitely not an exact duplicate. However, I do not have enough rep to vote to reopen. – dainichi Aug 11 '12 at 3:38
up vote 1 down vote accepted

They're not perfect equivalents, but they're pretty close. The biggest difference, of course, is that whom is a pretty formal word, so "By whom?" is a very awkward reply to, say, "He got f'd." Either "By who?" or "Who by?" would be much more natural.

Another difference is that if someone uses a by-phrase that you didn't quite catch, or that you're surprised about, you can reply "By whom?" or "By who?", but not "Who by?", to request a repetition. ("By who?" is the most common wording in this case: "This book is by Mr. Aasefalsdfjaose." "By who?")

share|improve this answer
I have no idea that speaking correctly make it formal. – speedyGonzales Feb 8 '12 at 15:39
Using archaic words can be considered "formal". While whom is perhaps not yet archaic, it is going rapidly. – GEdgar Feb 8 '12 at 15:44
@speedyGonzales: For a great many native speakers (quite possibly even the majority), any use of "whom" would be considered formal, regardless of whether it's "correct" by traditional grammar. In the more general case many idiomatic usages aren't strictly grammatical, but the correct version is considered more formal (e.g. - "Can I come in?" compared to "May I come in?"). – FumbleFingers Feb 8 '12 at 16:59
@FumbleFingers: But you ended the sentence with a preposition! (I'm struggling to figure out how you would reword that sentence to not do so, without using totally different words, like replacing "come in" with "enter".) – Jay Feb 9 '12 at 18:27
@Jay: In traditional grammar (the sort with made-up rules like "don't end a sentence with a preposition"), the "in" in "come in" is not called a "preposition" at all, but an "adverb" or "particle". (In traditional grammar, it's only called a "preposition" when it has an object, as in "in the office" or "in reality".) – ruakh Feb 9 '12 at 18:32

"By whom?" is correct. "Who by?" is incorrect, though it is commonly used, especially in speech as opposed to writing. Actually I suspect the most commonly used expression would be "By who?" "Who by?" is really doubly incorrect because it both uses the wrong form of the word "who" and it puts the object of the preposition before the preposition.

To those who say that correctness is determined by popular usage and that "whom" is becoming obsoleete: Yes, but usage by whom? (Or "Usage who by?" if you prefer.) "Whom" is still considered the more literate and correct word to use. If you want to sound intelligent, write "by whom". If you're chatting with your buddies at the bar, it doesn't matter.

share|improve this answer

Whom and who in object position or in a prepositional phrase are both grammatical in Standard English. The difference is one of formality, with whom being used in the most formal contexts. ‘The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language’ says all that needs to be said on the matter on pages 7 and 8 here.

share|improve this answer

I've heard of "who by" for the first time! It is, naturally, grammatically incorrect. However, like @speedyGonzales said, it is okay to use it for spoken English. But I've only heard of "by who".

share|improve this answer

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