(1) That's a big part of who I am.

(2) When that day comes if you don't like who you are, you're done.

At first blush, the who's in (1) and (2) seem to be relative words in the fused construction.

CaGEL* (Page 1077), however, seems to say that both these are interrogative pronouns. Specifically, CaGEL says this:

enter image description here ... enter image description here

An example of the free choice construction is:

Invite who you like.

And I don't think the boldfaced expression in (1) or (2) is the free choice construction.

Does this mean that the who's in (1) and (2) are interrogative pronouns?


Here's what CaGEL (Page 1076-77) says about 'how' marginally occurring in a fused relative:

Examples with how are found but they are rare and quite marginal:

%We will not change how we use future contracts during the term of this Prospectus; %I don’t like how it looks.

These examples are construed by CaGEL as possible -- admittedly marginally so -- cases of how occurring in a fused relative.

Now, returning to example (2) above, I don't know why you don't like who you are should be interpreted differently than I don’t like how it looks. That is, if the latter's how is construed as a fused relative word, albeit marginally, then why shouldn't the former's who be?

*The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston & Pullum

  • 1
    @BillJ You say you can't say Who I am is none of your concern, but I've found a few examples in Google Books: goo.gl/UscBdV Are these all ungrammatical? – JK2 Apr 25 '18 at 15:20
  • 1
    @BillJ Thanks for confirming that with your earlier comment. Still, CaGEL does think of I don’t like how it looks as having a fused relative construction. And I believe it's the context outside the embedded fused relative/interrogative construction** that determines the nature of the embedded construction. Then, how can you don't like who you are in (2) be said to include a different construction (i.e., interrogative) than I don’t like how it looks? – JK2 Apr 26 '18 at 9:24
  • 1
    @Araucaria What do you mean by "his analysis of That's a big part of who I am"? As far as I know, CaGEL doesn't have as an example who I am as a complement of a preposition of. Moreover, in that blog post, GKP clearly states, "in Can I help who's next? we have a fused relative construction: it's the object of help." Similarly, in you don't like who you are, who you are is the object of like, which I think means that we have a fused relative construction in (2). – JK2 May 2 '18 at 11:58
  • 1
    @Araucaria That who's next in Can I help who's next? "would always be interpreted as an interrogative" is just beyond me, if that's really what you're saying. GKP himself has painstakingly differentiated Can I help who's next? from interrogative uses such as I wonder who's next. – JK2 May 2 '18 at 12:48
  • 1
    I cannot for the life of me see why CGEL would call the how examples ‘marginal’ and grammatical in some dialects only. Both the examples they give are completely unremarkable to me, and the dialect-switcher in my head cannot conceive of a dialect where this is not so. Where would “I don’t like how it looks” or “We won’t change how we use X” be ungrammatical, or even anything but completely normal? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 4 '18 at 9:12

"who I am" as a declarative noun clause – object of "of" – would seem to rule out any interrogative function, actual or virtual.


I am not a literacy or grammar expert, but for my own use I have (perhaps from a teacher long ago, who knows) a simple rule that if you would use the word "him" (that is ending with the "m") then you should use "whom". I think Important people will have all sorts of names for the category of word but I just find that intuitively one can decide if it would be "he" or "him" in the sentence if it were unscrambled.

so "who I am" you would re-arrange it and using he/him it would read "I am HIM" not "I am HE" and thus I would suggest, tentatively and standing to be corrected, and all that sort of thing, that most of the question relates to sentences that would require WHOM. of course some of these sentences would appear clumsy so we wouldnt say it at all.

does that help?

  • 3
    Unlike some people on this site, I favor using "whom" when appropriate, but as the complement of "am" or "are" it is not appropriate. In order to correctly use the "he vs. him" criterion for "who vs. whom" decisions, one must learn to say "I am he." – Andreas Blass Jan 19 at 1:38

"Who" is a relative pronoun, not an interrogative pronoun. A relative pronoun is used to connect a clause or phrase to a noun or pronoun. Who, in fact, is one of the most common relative pronouns. An example is - "The driver who ran the stop sign was careless."

References - https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/pronouns/relative-pronoun.html

  • 2
    “Who” can be either a relative pronoun or an interrogative pronoun. – sumelic Dec 4 '18 at 0:41
  • 4
    This is quite obviously not accurate, and this kind of over-simplified, basic grammar link is certainly in no way an adequate answer to a question displaying this level of detail and sophistication. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 4 '18 at 0:50

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.