I'm wondering if the phrase "Who's who" as in "a who's who of the community" should be "Who's whom" on the basis that if you rephrase to a question and remove the apostrophe you get "Who is who?" which is poor English, so should be "Who is whom?" (since you would respond to it phrased as a question with, for example "He is him(self)".

Which is technically correct, "Who's who" or "Who's whom".

I'm pretty sure it should not be "Whose who" because that would be possessive. Ignore that who and whom are generally interchangeable in modern common usage, I want to be technically correct about it if possible, though I fear it may just be one of those statements which makes no sense but we use anyway.

  • A copula (like is as it's used in the sentence Who is who?) seems to typically join words of the same case; or equivalently, a predicate noun (nominal) should be in subjective, not objective, case. That's often ignored if the predicate nominal is a personal pronoun (I say It's me rather than It's I), but not if it's a relative pronoun. – Matt Gutting Aug 22 '14 at 19:52
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    Your comment is pretty much Greek to me Matt sorry :) What does that mean in the context of my question? – Bob Davies Aug 22 '14 at 19:53
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    Think of it this way: You'd say Who is he?, not Who is him? In the same way, you should say Who is who?, not Who is whom? – Matt Gutting Aug 22 '14 at 19:56
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    I am going with "unclear what you're asking". Obviously the phrase is "who's who". We all know that, it is just a fact. Consequently, it is also the technically correct phrase. Wondering if it coulda shoulda woulda been "who is whom" or "whom is who" or "whom is whom" is an excercise in futility. You are asking if "red car" is technically incorrect and should be "rød car" instead. The answer is no, there simply is no such thing as "rød car". It cannot be technically correct if it doesn't so much as exist. (Whatever "technically correct" even means, nobody using it is ever able to define it.) – RegDwigнt Aug 22 '14 at 22:00
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    The confusion is caused by two somewhat strange phenomena. (1) Unlike ordinary transitive verbs, be is a copula. It doesn't take a direct object - if it is followed by a noun, the noun is in subject case. (2) In many contexts English uses object case of a pronoun instead of subject case, in much the same way that French uses emphatic pronouns. After the copula be is often one of these contexts. However, whom is never used as the emphatic form of subject case who in this sense. It is strictly restricted to the actual object case, and even for that it's on the decline. – user86291 Oct 17 '15 at 20:06

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