A friend of mine wrote

Whoever able to understand these few words [...] may draw my attention.

First, I told him to write "Anyone who is able to understand [...]", but he said he wants to keep the word "Whoever". Ok. With that assumption, for me, it would sound better if he said "Whoever being able to understand these few words [...] may draw my attention."

My question: Would you say that his sentence is correct without adding any word between "Whoever" and "able"?

  • Your friend is definitely wrong. Anyone able would be correct. – Jason Orendorff Oct 17 '11 at 21:19

The word that should go between "Whoever" and "able" is is.

Note: "being" could be used correctly if the sentence reads like "Whoever, being able to understand x, does y may draw my attention", although I doubt you would likely hear this in speech.

  • Right. That sounds good to me. Would you say that "being" would be incorrect? Thanks. – Telaclavo Oct 17 '11 at 18:32
  • If the sentence is as straightforward as it looks, then yes. However, "being" could be used correctly if the sentence reads like "Whoever, being able to understand x, does y may draw my attention". – yoozer8 Oct 17 '11 at 18:32

Nobody has directly addressed the question of why "whoever able to ... " is ungrammatical, whereas "anyone able to ... " works.

The point is that "who(ever)" is a relative pronoun, and must introduce a full clause with a finite verb. "Anyone" is not a relative pronoun, and so cannot introduce such a clause.

"Who", "whoever" and "whosoever" all have the same grammar.


whoever is able to

anyone who is able to

anyone able to

are all grammatical


*whoever able to ... may ...

*anyone is able to ... may ...

are not.

Incidentally, "draw my attention" reads oddly without an object: to me it requires a "to ... " phrase.


The answer to your question? No. A suitable modification which would satisfy your friend's request, yet isn't as verbose as is able to, is:

Whoever can understand these few words...

  • +1 because if OP's friend insists on retaining whoever, that's the best you can do. But I'm guessing neither OP nor his friend are "careful" native speakers, because really it should be Whosoever can understand... – FumbleFingers Oct 17 '11 at 23:27
  • No, I'm not an English native speaker. I'm a Spanish native speaker, and so is my friend. Thank you. – Telaclavo Oct 18 '11 at 8:58
  • @FumbleFingers: no, "whosoever" is a rather old-fashioned alternative to "whoever". There's nothing wrong with "whoever". Or by "careful" do you mean "preciously archaic"? – Colin Fine Oct 18 '11 at 14:30
  • @Colin: On reflection I think you're right. I was drawn into an archaic mode because OP's entire sentence and sentiment reminded me of the biblical He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith... – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '11 at 16:18

It might (just) be acceptable to say "Whomsoever, able to understand these few words, may draw my attention." This (obsolescent) use of whomsoever is equivalent to anyone, and does not vary to whosoever. But it's somewhat precious at best, and may depend on what is in the omitted words.

  • +1 for "precious", which all valid variants would be. – FumbleFingers Oct 17 '11 at 23:29
  • -1 for not knowing the difference between "who(soever)" and "whom(soever)". Normally I wouldn't make a fuss about this nearly obsolete distinction, but if somebody is going to be precious enough to use "who(m)soever" I expect them to get the right one of them. – Colin Fine Oct 18 '11 at 14:32
  • @Colin: you've missed my point. It's not the standard "Who(so)ever is able to understand": it's more "He counts it lawfull in the bookes of whomsoever to reject that which hee finds otherwise then true."(Milton, Of Reformation). Granted, I wouldn't have suggested it if I'd known Op wasn't a native speaker... – Tim Lymington Oct 18 '11 at 15:18
  • Apparently I did miss your point. OK, you did not make the error I accused you of, but I'm quite unable to find a way of making the sentence you did post grammatical. – Colin Fine Oct 19 '11 at 11:51

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.