I know that if you say something with only one person—for example "Look over there, it's Jack"—the correct response is "who?" (short for "who is Jack?"), or at least I'm pretty sure this is true.

Anyway, what I am asking is whether you can differentiate between the object/subject of a statement using either who or whom. In other words, if someone said, for example, "George just hit Jack!", could you respond with either "Who?" or "Whom?" to specify whom you are referring to?

So if someone said, "George hit Jack", could you say "Who?" as in "Who (hit Jack)?" or "Whom?" as in "(George hit) Whom?" to specify whom you are referring to?


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    You could do that, but the percentage of the population who would understand it correctly is pretty small. It’s much clearer to say either, Who? or Hit whom? or Who hit whom? depending on what you didn’t get the first time. – Jim Nov 29 '15 at 20:04
  • @Jim As Steven Littman says below, '... in ordinary conversational speech, "whom" is almost as dead as "thou" '. (I'd give prepositional phrases as an exception.) – Edwin Ashworth Nov 29 '15 at 23:33
  • @EdwinAshworth- Yep. I have noticed that as well. Who hit who? is also a viable option but I hesitated to introduce it in a “comment answer” – Jim Nov 29 '15 at 23:48

Replying with just Who?, instead of who is x?, is colloquial. In a colloquial context, I would probably stick with who, whatever the original sentence. After all, you can ask who is x? about the object of a sentence just as well as about the subject. If you want to use whom, you should probably do so only in a full(er) sentence: whom did Jack hit? You could still use whom in a colloquial echo question, but then you'd still need a verb, as in he hit whom? / hit whom?

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    ...With a caveat that in ordinary conversational speech, "whom" is almost as dead as "thou". Most people, even educated ones, would normally say "He hit who?" rather than "He hit whom?" – Steven Littman Nov 29 '15 at 22:22
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    @Steven Littman Most people would ask 'Who did he hit?' – Edwin Ashworth Nov 29 '15 at 23:35
  • True, but what I said was in comparison with "he hit whom?" in the answer above. – Steven Littman Nov 30 '15 at 1:53

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