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I answered two questions incorrectly during my SAT prep class, and they seem to contradict each other. The first question was:

The district manager agreed to promote the employee who he saw improve sales by the end of the year.

(A) who he saw improve

(B) who he saw was improving

(C) who he will see improve

(D) whom he saw improve

(E) whom he saw to be improving

I picked A but the correct answer was D. Now, for my second question:

During the auditions, the show's producer looked for those actors whom he thought would be suitable for the many roles in the play.

(A) whom he thought

(B) whom he has thought

(C) who he was thinking

(D) who he thought

(E) whom they thought

Again, I picked A here but the the correct answer was D. I don't understand why one uses "who" while the other uses "whom", since they seem to have the same sentence structure (but obviously different words).

marked as duplicate by MetaEd, Brian Hooper, TrevorD, choster, tchrist Aug 28 '13 at 1:50

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Those are not the same structure at all.

The first is equivalent to

The strict manager saw him (that is, the employee) improve sales.

If you see him do something, then you still see him.

While the second is equivalent to:

The show’s producer thought he (that is, the actor) would be suitable.

If he would be suitable, it is just he, no matter the thinking.

Since those are the correct he/him answers, just plug who/whom in correspondingly.

  • Per the linked question (see duplicate question indicator), this logic is incorrect. Both uses should be whom, as neither represents the subject of that clause. In both your reductions, he and him represent direct objects, not subjects. You could argue that he would be suitable forms its own clause with an implied that in which he becomes the subject, but that is a result if your transformation and is not present in the original sentence. – Zenexer Jul 15 '14 at 18:42
  • @Zenexer No, he does not represent a direct object in my reduction; the direct object of thought is the entire subordinate clause he would be suitable. If he were a direct object, he would be him and it is not. Are you claiming that the test-supplied would-be correct answer to the second problem in the OP is actually wrong? – tchrist Jul 15 '14 at 18:55
  • Right, in your reduction, he is the subject (of a clause) because you created an additional prepositional phrase with an implied that. Without reduction--just splitting up the original sentence into phrases and clauses--it's easy to see that it's an object in question. – Zenexer Jul 15 '14 at 19:01
  • @Zenexer What prepositional phrase?? – tchrist Jul 15 '14 at 19:12
  • "The show's producer thought [that] he would be suitable." Colloquially we often drop "that" as a preposition. Regardless, "he would be suitable" is a new clause. – Zenexer Jul 15 '14 at 19:19

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