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I say that "whoever" is the correct grammatical choice in the following sentence:

Give the raise to the hardest-working employee, whoever/whomever that may be.

I say "whoever" is correct. The reason is that, when we isolate the "whoever/whomever" clause ("whomever that may be"), the phrase converts to "It may be he". "It may be he who is the hardest-working employee", not "It may be him who is the hardest-working employee". Thus, I believe "whoever" is the correct choice here. Am I right? And is my explanation in determining "whoever" on point?

This question is different because the "whoever" clause is at the end of the sentence.

marked as duplicate by tchrist, Mitch, Jim, Sven Yargs, choster Dec 14 '15 at 6:44

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  • Welcome to ELU and thanks for your question. Did you research online about whoever vs whomever? A neat example can be found here – BiscuitBoy Dec 13 '15 at 6:20
  • Yes. That is one of my favorite sites. I still maintain that "whoever" is correct above, and for the reason I provided. Am I right? – londonderry Dec 13 '15 at 6:24
  • 2
    Your reasoning merely gets you a rephrased clause without explaining the case of the pronoun. Ask yourself what role the pronoun plays in the clause. If it's a subject or a subjective complement, then the case must be nominative (in formal written English). If it's an object of some type, then the case must be objective. – deadrat Dec 13 '15 at 10:01

According to the sentence mentioned in the question, if there is only one hardest working employee who has to get the raise, using whoever is correct.

Give the raise to the hardest-working employee, whoever that may be.

Reference Link

  • 4
    The number of hardest-working employees is irrelevant to the case of the pronoun, which depends solely on the role that pronoun plays in its own clause. – deadrat Dec 13 '15 at 9:58
  • What if there are more than one? For example, "Say a benediction for the survivors, whoever they may be." – Blessed Geek Dec 13 '15 at 19:23

With the personal pronouns, trad grammar says that the verb "be" cannot take the accusative. But the nominative form is considered very formal, and the accusative form the norm. Just about everyone would say "It may be him", not the very formal "It may be he".

But with "who" and "whom", things are the other way round, so when the wh- word is predicative complement of "be", it's the nominative form "who" that is the norm, with the accusative "whom" being somewhat formal.

Your example is a 'fused' relative construction, in which "whoever/whomever that may be" can be very roughly paraphrased as "The person who that may be". As it's clear that the function of the appropriate -ever word here is predicative complement of "be", then it should be the nominative "whoever". "Whomever" would also be correct, but very formal.


Give the raise to the hardest-working employee, {whoever/whomever} that may be.

  • First we define what the determinant is, in your question.
  • Then we identify the operations performed on the determinant.

The determinant in question is, but yet indeterminate, "the hardest-working employee".

The operations performed on this determinant are

  • Give accusative_raise to
  • define the determinant as dative
  • An indirection reference (who/whom).
  • qualifying a yet to be resolved determinant.

Then we identify the sequence of operations.

  1. Is this the sequence?
    {Give accusative_raise to}
    {Give a raise to} {the hardest working employee, {whoever that might be}}

  2. Or is this the sequence?
    {Give accusative_raise to}
    {Give a raise to} {whomever {might be the hardest working employee}}

Test of independence of phrase (i.e., the phrase should be usable elsewhere):

  • {the hardest working employee, {whoever that might be}} should get a raise.

  • To {whomever {might be the smartest employee}}, we will give a toast and a roast.

Note: In English, the dative and accusative share the same set of pronouns. For examples: I gave him(accusative) to her(dative). I gave her him. I'll get her him. I'll get her an apple.

  • 1
    You've omitted to mention the fact that the fused relative "whoever/whomever" is predicative complement to "be" That's what determines the case of the pronoun here. – BillJ Dec 13 '15 at 14:48

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