12

Please fill in the blank with the correct word and explain your choice.

I am __ G-d made me.

A. who

B. whom


Some people have suggested I elaborate on this question so here goes.

The above was not copied from any test. It is a question about basically two things: (1) whether an objective complement should be in the same case as the subject ("I" => "who") or as the object of the verb ("me" => "whom"); and (2) whether the verb to "make" [someone into something] should properly be considered a linking verb (~a form of "to be") (or, if not, whether this sentence has an implied nonfinite linking verb, and, if so, whether that would indeed exige the predicate nominative: "I am who G-d made me [to be]" => "I"? Or conceivably--since "me" becomes the subject[?] of the complement clause-- =>"me"?).

There are many other implications, just some of which are discussed here. It is a serious question that seems not to be addressed by any general overview of who/whom on this site.

There is another question about a similar construction, "When to use what or who", but the answers there don't address the topic of case.

My question may be addressed in linguistics and may have different answers according to different linguistic models.


Cf. "She is with whom I practice." "It is she I want to be like." "That's who I want to be like."

Related:

Which is grammatically correct: "Let he who..." or "Let him who..."

What rules make “Remember me, who am your friend” grammatical?

https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/48701/subject-of-imperatives-starting-with-let

Carry we who die in battle

https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/124307/is-i-killed-him-who-carried-a-gun-grammatically-correct

Issues with predicate nominative

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/let-he-who-is-a-latin-teacher-instruct-him/article747363/

  • 4
    Neither is correct. The relative pronoun should replace the subject or object in the relative clause but both are still there. It would be "I am who/whom G-d made" or "I am who made me".(who or whom both work; whom is hardly used at all in normal speech nowadays, but religious speech holds on to some archaism me like 'whom'. – Mitch Jul 3 '16 at 12:54
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    @Araucaria Yes. Whom must be an object; that is, it cannot be a subject. That is, if you determine that the relative pronoun is a subject, it cannot be whom. But the thing with the example sentence in the question is that neither is right. The sentence is not a sentence. – Andrew Leach Jul 21 '16 at 12:51
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    @Araucaria What I commented was that whom must be an object; I said nothing about him -- apart from in a comment below. However the fact remains that in the question here, neither option is correct because the sentence is not a sentence in either case. – Andrew Leach Jul 21 '16 at 13:48
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    @AndrewLeach Hmm, but that's not correct. "Whom" need not be an object. For example it can be the complement of a preposition. Do you have any vetted grammar sources backing up that object claim? Also, I've just given you a load of examples from printed books, so I don't see how you can say that it "isn't a sentence"? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 21 '16 at 13:51
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    The sentence is ungrammatical. The question of who vs. whom has been beaten to death already. – Kris May 24 '18 at 9:02
9
+100
  • If I could choose neither, I would, since I'm not sure if the sentence is grammatical (I have asked a separate question about that here: Is "I am who(m) God made me" grammatical?).

  • If I had to choose one and I was allowed to choose based on my own preferences, I would choose who since, as many posts on this site explain, "whom" often sounds stuffy or pedantic.

  • But if I had to choose one based on what I think fits best with prescriptive grammar, I would choose whom.


This isn't a complete answer, so much as a summary of what I've discovered while researching this question. I hope some syntax expert will post a more a definitive answer.

Syntax: the "object complement"

In sentences of the form "[God] [made] [me] [a man]," "God" is the subject, "made" is the verb, and "me" is the object of the verb. The phrase "a man," rather than being an object, serves the role of what is called an "object complement."

The grammatical case of the object complement

This is tricky to ascertain, since most sentences with a pronoun in this position sound very awkward and unnatural ("God made me her"?/"God made me she"?).

However, I think there are several fairly strong arguments for it being in the objective case.

For one thing, I was able to find one fairly common expression that uses this structure with an objective-case pronoun as the object complement: "what makes me me" and variations on this phrase. As far as I can tell, no one say "what makes me I," and my intuition tells me that this would be ungrammatical.

Unfortunately, this is not a foolproof argument because online examples that are similar to this often show some odd punctuation that casts doubt on the role of the pronoun here. Often there is a comma or ellipsis before the pronoun: "What made me, me", "everything that made me ... me". In contrast, a comma would be ungrammatical in "God made me, a man." This might be a sign that these phrases have different grammatical structures.

Sometimes, what appears to be the object pronoun is capitalized or put in quotation marks: "What events in my life had made me, Me?", "the things that made me 'me' ". This odd treatment almost suggests the word "me" in this expression is being treated as a noun rather than a pronoun, and in that case it would not inflect for case and would be useless as evidence for the "who"/"whom" rule. (A parallel case: we say "The Me I Want to Be", not "The I I want to Be," but prescriptive grammar still prescribes the nominative form in the phrase "who I want to be.")

But, I think there are also theoretical arguments that suggest the object complement is in the objective case (or at least, that it "should" be in prescriptivist grammar). The most straightforward is that it's a complement, and prescriptivists often value arguments like "complements should match the case of their referent." That's the whole foundation of the argument for saying "It is I" rather than "It is me."

From a more descriptive viewpoint, I have read that the "objective" case or pronouns is generally less marked in modern English, which I think means that phrases tend to default to that unless explicitly assigned to the nominative case by a rule. However, the objective case of "whom" is an exception since it basically only occurs in educated constructions that have to be explicitly taught. Some linguists argue that the rules for using "whom" have actually become distinct in the modern language from the rest of the English case system. (Some papers I found about this that I still have to finish going through: The Who/Whom Puzzle: On The Preservation Of An Archaic Feature, Whom and the English Case System).

Is it grammatical to replace the object complement with a pronoun?

I'm not sure if it's grammatical to replace this element of the sentence with a fronted relative pronoun. (I believe "who" or "whom" in this context would be a relative pronoun, although I'm not sure: it's possible it would be an interrogative). I'm currently trying to research this.

There are some examples of sentences with object complements here: http://www.englishgrammar.org/object-complement/

  • They elected Martin their president.
  • They named the boy Christopher.

I don't get great results when I try to modify them to use the pronoun "what":

  • *What they elected Martin was their president.
  • ?What they named Christopher was the boy.
  • ?What they named the boy was Christopher.

These all seem awkward to me, although Mitch and Araucaria have left comments indicating that "What they named the boy was Christopher" seems OK to them. The comments that used to exist below this question indicate that many people think "I am who(m) G-d made me" sounds ungrammatical, although I have not found any source that explains why it would be.

Araucaria also found some real-life examples of "I am/ This is who God made me" that I think are worth listing in an answer:

According to typical prescriptive rules, the pronoun's role in the matrix clause shouldn't affect its form

The matrix clause (or main clause) in this example is "I am __." In general, the choice of "who" or "whom" is not affected by the pronoun's role in the matrix clause, only by its role in the embedded clause. So the prescriptivist rule about using the nominative form of a pronoun after "I am" should be irrelevant. (A similar example is discussed in this following question: Who vs. whom in complex sentences—"I gave the prize to whoever deserved it most" is correct, even though we would say "I gave the prize to him/her," because the case is determined by the embedded clause "deserved it most" and we we would say "He/She deserved it most.") The following questions are also relevant: Can a phrase be the object of a clause and how would its subject change?, "I give it to him who came first" vs. "to he who came first", Which is grammatically correct: "Let he who..." or "Let him who...".

For some speakers, there are additional complications in phrases such as "the person whom the police thought was responsible," but as Geoffrey K. Pullum explains in the linked article, the use of whom in this context is generally considered incorrect by prescriptivists.

A caveat: F.E.'s answer to the following question is also relevant, and points out that in real English usage (as opposed to the rules of prescriptivists), "fused relative" constructions like this with clashing case requirements may be avoided: "Put me in touch with whomever created it"?

Wikipedia cites an interesting passage from "The Distribution of Pronoun Case Forms in English", by Heidi Quinn, that indicates that in a similar construction in Old English (the "argument relative"), the case of the wh-pronoun was based on its role in the matrix clause.

For example, the wh-pronoun wam functions as the subject of the relative clause in (65), but the relative itself functions as the object of the matrix preposition to. Since the matrix clause always wins out over the relative-internal clause, the wh-pronoun in (65) surfaces as the objective form wam, rather than as the nominative form hwa.

(p. 331)

Unfortunately, the page with the relevant sentence was not visible in the Google Books, but I found what seems to be the same example in a PDF of Quinn's thesis:

Ðe holi gost ... hine dealeð to [wam him beoð lofue]
the holy ghost ...  3sgM.ACC gives to wh.OBJ 3sgM.OBJ is pleasing
'The holy ghost ... gives it to whomever is pleasing to him.'

(Layamon (Otho) 9081) [AlIen 1980: 208] 

I'm not actually sure based on this example if this construction is really analogous to the modern English construction, but it's interesting nevertheless. You can see more discussion on the Wikipedia talk page.

Quinn also mentions the typically limited distribution of who(m) in free relatives that Peter Shor mentioned in his answer:

In Modern English free relatives, the complex wh-forms whoever, whomever, whoso(ever), and whomsoever tend to be favoured over the simplex forms who and whom (cf. Jespersen 1949[1927]:62, Baker 1995:210f), except when the relative clause involves VP ellipsis (69) or Null Complement Anaphora (70).

(p. 333)

  • 2
    President won't work because it's a bare role NP. "What they named Christopher was the boy" doesn't seem to bear a good relation to the original, it seems to me . "What they named the boy was Christopher" seems ok to me ... (but grammaticality is in the ear of the beholder, no doubt!) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 18 '16 at 22:50
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    @Araucaria and @ sumelic, Thank you so much for championing my question, and for your serious efforts toward finding the answer. – SAH Jul 19 '16 at 1:39
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    @Sumelic Do you have any way of retrieving and adding the info you originally posted as comments on the OP? There, you said that the pronoun almost certainly (according to the prescriptive authorities) takes case according to its position in the embedded clause. I believed you, and would love to see that information in this answer, especially if you have a source :) – SAH Jul 19 '16 at 12:25
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    "What they named the boy was Christopher." sounds fine to me. Also "Christopher was what they named the boy" is fine too. – Mitch Jul 19 '16 at 13:35
  • @sumelic I'm still mulling the details of this reply. Please tell me how it would sound if we conceived the original sentence instead as this ellipsis, for: "I am he, whom God made me." – H. David Jun 27 '17 at 15:44
6

TL:DR. Just use who. You've already dispensed with traditional grammar by using who(m) instead of who(m)ever; why start paying attention to antiquated rules at this point?

And the detailed explanation:

In

I am who(m) God made me,

the pronoun who(m) is serving as both the subject complement of the verb am and the object of made. This is a fused relative clause, and traditionally (say early 20th century English) this is not allowed; you need to use who(m)ever for pronouns that serve two different roles. See this languagelog post.

For who(m)ever in fused relatives, the pronoun should agree with its role in the dependent clause. See reference. Thus, traditionally the sentence should read

I am whomever God made me.

However, recently who has been replacing who(m)ever in fused relative clauses. Half the time I am waiting in lines, I hear

I can help who's next.

(And half the time I still hear whoever.)

So should you apply the same rules you use for who(m)ever to who(m) in fused relative clauses?

Since replacing who(m)ever with who is a new innovation, and using who instead of whom (except after prepositions) is a slightly less new innovation, to me using whom in

? I am whom God made me

sounds wrong – if you're going to dispense with traditional grammar for the fused relative clause, maybe you should also dispense with traditional grammar for who/whom, and just say

I am who God made me.

That's my gut feeling; I don't have any references supporting this view.

What about other situations? The simplest solution is just to use who all the time in fused relative clauses. You should certainly use who in clauses like

I will give this to who wants it,

since whom sounds terrible as the subject of a relative clause. But what about

I will give this to who(m) it fits,

where the pronoun follows a preposition and is the object of the relative clause. To my ear, the formal whom used in this sentence which really should have whomever is jarring, and who actually sounds better.

3

If one uses the grammatical rule:

Rule. Use this he/him method to decide whether who or whom is correct:

he = who him = whom

Examples: Who/Whom wrote the letter? He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.

[For] who/whom should I vote? Should I vote for him? Therefore, whom is correct.

(Grammarbook.com)

If one then follows this rule through, God made him not he, therefore: I am whom God made me.

  • 4
    But, "I am he". – Unrelated Jul 18 '16 at 18:01
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    Very good point, perhaps I am mistaken then; further research needed – BladorthinTheGrey Jul 18 '16 at 18:02
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    Really this is all beyond me. Once grammar terms come out I am lost. – Unrelated Jul 18 '16 at 18:18
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    "I am he" is fine: the verb be grammatically doesn't take an object; it's a copula. Idiomatically, the object form of pronouns is used "That's me!" – Andrew Leach Jul 21 '16 at 12:47
0

I think the sentence itself is incorrect since it's a relative clause and relative clauses can't end in pronouns which relates to the same as the relative pronoun does, for example we can't say ( the man whom I helped him) we should say ( the man whom I helped) and your sentence should be like that ( I am whom God made) not ( I am whom God made me). And the suitable pronoun is (whom) in your sentence because the case is objective one ....

0

Here's my current conclusion, which is in keeping with @sumelic's answer, and with a lemma in @Peter Shor's. (It may be worth noting that all the major answers so far--at least those which allow the sentence can be analyzed--have come down on the side of "whom." [Yes, even Peter Shor's, in my view.] [Sumelic's comment on my answer here casts, however, some doubt.])

It's "whom,"

because the whole noun phrase

whom G-d made me

is the predicate nominative of the sentence. Because the whole noun phrase functions as a nominative, the "who[m]" itself doesn't need to be nominative. It can do what it is supposed to do as an objective complement in the phrase; that is, be accusative. => whom

0

First and foremost, the sentence in the original question is stilted and unidiomatic. The me in “I am who/whom G_d made me” is redundant. Leave out the object pronoun and the sentence improves considerably.

My answer will be short and sweet. The words in capital letters are quoted verbatim

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

King James Bible

ergo

I am that which God made

-1

The object case is used after a transitive verb. After a verb of being, such as in the example, the subject case is used. That would make, "I am who," correct.

This seems to be to be the whole explanation: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/it-is-i-versus-it-is-me

  • The nominative case is used for the complement of a verb of being that has a nominative subject. But in this sentence, the pronoun "who(m)" is not the complement of the verb "am"; it is the complement of the object of the relative clause. The complement of "am" is the entire relative clause "who(m) God made me". – herisson Jun 26 '17 at 21:10
  • While you may be right, this explanation is much too short. In this sentence, who serves as both the subject complement of am and the object of made. So should it be who or whom? For whoever/whomever, it's the dependent clause that determines the grammar, so it should be I am whomever God made me. See reference. – Peter Shor Jun 26 '17 at 21:12
  • So do you think "I can serve who's next" is grammatical? Or should it be "I can serve whom's next"? – Peter Shor Jun 26 '17 at 21:20
  • @sumelic, I totally misread the question. Should I delete the answer? – H. David Jun 27 '17 at 3:34
-1

I am who God made me (to be).

Notice I have added a part that can be said to have been elided. The verb be is often elided and the sentence sounds better without it being elided.

As far as who, and the "rules," well, frankly in case of pronouns, including who/whom, native speakers (per descriptive grammar) follow only one rule consistently: use whatever sounds best/comes natural. Thus: Who is at the door? The answer is It's me, and only prescriptive grammarians will insist doggedly on It's I even though this is based on a rule derived from Latin.

-3

I have finally satisfied myself with an answer to this question. It's "whom," from the fact that we know this is correct:

"Give it to he who is happy."

...The above example illustrates an interesting point. "They" are wise to obfuscate causality in their statement of the rule that "a relative pronoun [such as "who(m)"] always agrees in number and person with its antecedent"--because, surprisingly enough, the causality seems to work backwards: the gender, number, and case of the antecedent follow those of the subsequent relative pronoun.

In other words, you (1) start with the embedded clause--the immediate environs of the relative pronoun--to find out what gender/number/case it must take, and then you (2) make the relative pronoun's antecedent match it.

(All this analysis I am deriving from the knowledge that "Give it to he who is happy" is correct.)

I'm not sure how to apply Step Two to the given sentence ("I am [who/whom] G-d made me")--maybe that's proof that this sentence is ungrammatical after all. But we can easily complete Step One, which yields "whom."

I am whom G-d made me

Me is whom G-d made me

Whom G-d made me is me

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