1

Is the following sentence grammatically correct?

I speak of him, whom is one of the best people I've met.

I think that sentence to be grammatically incorrect. I believe it to be as such because you could replace "whom" in that sentence with "and he"; the word "he" in that situation would indicate that you would replace "he" with "who", not "whom". This is why I believe I know the answer to be that it would be "who", not "whom". However, I get confused because of the fact that you could also change the sentence by placing "of" before "whom". In that case, to my knowledge, it would be grammatically correct.

  • 7
    Since it's the subject, use who. Also, dude, tone it down; you sound like a modern Launcelot Gobbo. Let me fruitify unto you that it behooves one not to obfuscate one's intentions with oft-unheard and -unseen constructions, although they be perceived by one to be fanciful and erudite. Yadig? – Anonym May 19 '15 at 4:33
  • 4
    The "whom is" is unnecessary in its entirety. "I speak of him, one of the best people I've met." Why over-complicate the sentence? – Catija May 19 '15 at 4:33
  • 5
    Placing "of" before "whom" would not correct it. You'd have to add something like "...**of whom it could be said that he is**... This is much too complicated—better to leave out who/whom, as Catija suggested. – Brian Hitchcock May 19 '15 at 6:02
  • 1
    Observe also the subtle difference between "Who?" "I speak of him [points at someone], who is one of..." and "Who?" "I speak of he who is one of...". The relative clause in the former provides extra information about a specified "him", it's non-restrictive. The relative clause in the latter helps define "he", it's a restrictive relative clause. – Steve Jessop May 19 '15 at 10:29
  • 3
    @sgroves You want to see something wordier? Check out OP’s bio! – Kasenjo May 20 '15 at 13:36
20

It's wrong but may be about to become correct. There is really no definite answer because this is a point where the English language is changing right now. Currently there are four basic competing styles for choosing between who and whom.

  1. Who is the subject case, whom is the object case. The case of a relative pronoun is determined by its function in the relative clause.

  2. The word whom is obsolete. It has been replaced by who in all contexts.

  3. The word whom is nothing more than a substitute for who that can be used wherever who can be used, to indicate formality.

  4. Who is the subject case, whom is the object case. The case of a relative pronoun is determined by the function of the referent in the main clause.

Style 1 is the oldest and in some sense the most 'correct' rule. It comes naturally to older people, to people who have read a lot of classical literature, and to native speakers of other languages that make similar case distinctions. (E.g. in German, who is wer and whom is wen or wem depending on which object case it is - accusative or dative.)

Style 2 is a logical and straightforward consequence of natural language change. After already merging dative and accusative into a common object case, English has almost completely lost the distinction between subject case and object case. The role that was once played by cases has mostly been taken over by prepositions - especially to and of. As the who/whom distinction is no longer needed, the m in whom has been fading for centuries. Nowadays many younger speakers no longer make it. This is so common and so logical that by now it is generally considered just as correct as style 1.

Style 3 arises naturally in an environment in which speakers who grew up with style 2 are confronted with the word whom. Normally this happens only in formal text and speech, and for many there is not enough input to understand that who cannot always be replaced by whom. (This is similar to the extremely jarring abuse of thou and thee often encountered in computer games, where these obsolete singular pronouns tend to be used as if they were full synonyms for you.)

Style 4 arises in a way similar to style 3. The speaker understands that the who/whom distinction is the same as the he/him distinction, but since who[m] is the only relative pronoun still allowing this distinction, for some speakers there is not enough correct input (and some misleading input from followers of styles 2 and 3) to form the correct hypothesis on which case wins if the cases in the main clause and in the relative clause don't agree. So they make the wrong choice and stick to it.

Styles 3 and 4 are not generally considered correct, but they seem to be getting more and more popular and so I am somewhat reluctant to call them completely wrong. (Though I do hate them. I sympathise with James Thurber, who wrote a great little piece ridiculing them. Unfortunately, many younger people probably can't even understand its humour fully any more.)

The sentence in question is correct according to styles 3 (any sentence involving him who[m] is clearly meant to be formal) and 4 (the referent him in the main clause is clearly in the object case) but not according to style 1 (who is the subject of the relative clause) or 2.

  • 1
    Thank you very much. Though I'm a native speaker, you have helped me to better understand the English language when concerning "who" and "whom". As a side note, I prefer style one. I suppose it seems the most correct and the most sophisticated to me. – Clayton Geist May 19 '15 at 14:05
  • @ClaytonGeist - I suspect that when it comes to linguistics sophisticated = older in general. There's a reason for the phrases formal education and classically trained... – Bobson May 19 '15 at 17:57
  • Very nice summation. This Language Log post may provide some photo evidence for the difference between styles 2 and 3. – John Lawler May 25 '15 at 17:59
  • 1
    This is a very thorough answer, but I firmly believe that the first style--whom as an object pronoun--is the only correct style. Just because "youths" don't know the difference, doesn't mean that the difference is not there. – franklin May 26 '15 at 17:08
7

It is grammatically incorrect. It should be "I speak of him, who is one of the best people I've met." From what I've learned, whom would be used in a situation when it is indirectly referring to someone. Such as: You gave it to whom? (i.e. You gave IT to [person]. person is not the subject, the subject is "it". so You gave it to her. etc) Who is a pronoun, so you use it to represent someone: Who did it? (i.e. He did it, She did it, Joe did it, etc) Use "whom" when you can replace it with him or her, and who when you can replace it with he or she.

  • You did not answer all of my questions that I directly asked; however, you did help me to better understand the situation, and for that, I thank you. Someone else may be able to give a more detailed explanation of the situation - someone who has expansive knowledge on the subject matter. I do thank you for your input. – Clayton Geist May 19 '15 at 4:48
4

"Whom" is the objective or dative case of who.. The objective case is when a verb is being done to some thing. The Dative Case is for nouns that something else is given to.

so:

  • Who did that to you? (Who is the subject of the sentence)
  • To whom did you do that? (Whom is the object of the sentence)
  • To whom did you give that thing? (Whom is the dative)

In your particular clause, i.e. the part after the comma, 'who' is the subject. (i.e. "X is one of the best people". ) So your sentence is incorrect.

It should also be pointed out that native English speakers almost never use the word 'whom'. It has effectively become outdated.

  • 2
    Can you relate this to the question directly? – Catija May 19 '15 at 5:33
  • 3
    The rules and generalisations for interrogative whom and relative whom are different. – Araucaria May 19 '15 at 9:11
0

The underlying structure of the relative clause is

He is one of the best people.

Not: Him is one of the best people.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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