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Should this question begin with Whoever or Whomever:

W--- we trust the most is really our master.

Clearly the clause "W-- we trust the most" is in the subjective (nominative) position in the sentence as a whole, followed by "is" and a predicate nominative. However, if "We" is the subject of that clause, it would seem that the objective (accusative) case (therefore "Whomever") would be correct. Our current sloppy and hideously erroneous usage tends to obliterate objective forms ("whom") in most cases, but what is the correct usage?

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    Basic rule: don't ever use whomever. It solves no problems and causes only trouble. If you understand how to use it, others don't, so it doesn't matter whether you do or not -- you'll be misunderstood. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 18:05
  • @John the OP: Welcome to ELU! It is confusing for sure. This is what ELU calls a duplicate question. If you put "Whomever" in the search bar at the top of the page, you'll find your answer.
    – Wordster
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 18:29
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    But, John Lawler, that's wrong. In this case, "whomever" is grammatical; "whoever" isn't. In the vernacular, "whomever" and "whom" get trod on. They're rarely used and "whoever" and "who" get used in their place ungrammatically, so much so that it's because quasi-acceptable. In formal writing, though, it's not acceptable. What's more, this site is a venue to get technical questions about grammar answered, not a place to have technical questions about grammar blithely dismissed with an "it doesn't matter" paired with a wrong answer.
    – Billy
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 17:53

2 Answers 2

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Whomever

You use "whomever" because it is the direct object of the verb "trust."

"Whoever" is a subject pronoun. "Whomever" is an object pronoun. That means "Whoever" performs the action of verbs. "Whomever" receives the action of verbs. If the pronoun were performing the action of trusting, it would be "whoever," but it is not performing the action of trusting but is receiving the action of trusting that the subject "we" is performing.

By the way, take care not to assume the first word in a sentence is the subject. Subjects perform the action in a clause. It is clear that "we" is performing the action and that the sentence is using an inverted structure that places the direct object (i.e., "whomever") of the subject-verb (i.e., "we trust") before the subject-verb (i.e., "whomever we trust") instead of afterwards (i.e., "we trust whomever"). Whether the pronoun comes before or after "we trust," it is nonetheless the object of the verb, not the subject.

Moreover, even though the phrase "whomever we trust the most" is the subject (one of them, anyway) of the ensuing verb "is," that has no bearing on what pronoun, whoever or whomever, you are to use. You must look at the grammar of the phrase since it is the entire phrase, not the individual pronoun, that is serving as the subject of "is." Within that phrase, grammar calls for "whomever" since it is the direct object of "trust."

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  • "Is really our master" is missing a subject. So it should read "whoever."
    – Wordster
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 19:23
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    No, it shouldn't be "whoever." Absolutely not. You're wrong. Being that it is a sentence that employs a linking verb instead of an action verb, it has two subjects: the first is "whomever we trust the most"; the second, "our master." It is the entire phrase "whomever we trust the most" that acts as a subject of "is," not the individual pronoun. When you use an entire phrase as a subject, you follow the rules for proper grammar within that phrase. Within that phrase, "we" is the subject and "whomever" is the direct object, not a subject, so using "whoever" would be irrefutably wrong.
    – Billy
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 19:29
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    Why does this answer have two downvotes? It’s absolutely correct.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 1:47
  • But in your own answer to the duplicate-chain question that this results in, you say that the answer is whoever. Either you disagree with your earlier self or something in the duplication chain is wrong. Question A can't have an answer of "yes" and be a duplicate of Question B—which is, itself, a duplicate of Question C with an answer of "no." Either one of the answers is in error or one of the duplicate closures is a mistake. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 3:20
  • Jason Bassford - @tchrist gave the right answer both here and there. The answer you linked isn't the same situation as this. The answer to that question is "whoever." That's because "whoever" is the subject of the verb "has," not the object of the preposition "for." The object of the preposition "for" is the entire phrase "whoever has the pleasure of working for you next." In my answer above, I explain how when an entire phrase is a subject (or object) that you must use "whoever" or "whomever" in accordance with the rules of grammar within that phrase. So tchrist's and my answers agree.
    – Billy
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 18:06
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Whoever is incorrect, as it is not the subject of the sentence. The phrase "Whomever we trust the most" is the subject of the sentence, and within that phrase WHOM or WHOMEVER is correct because it answers this question:

WHOM do we trust the most? We trust WHOM the most?

As stated above, WHOM/EVER is the object of the verb--is receiving the action of the verb "trust."

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  • Right. "Whoever" is incorrect. "Whomever" is correct. I gave the same answer, but for some reason I have two down-votes. I'm guessing someone didn't like my answer on another answer and so linked into my list of answers and went thumbing down my other answers, including this one. That's because at the same time I got these down votes, I suddenly got a whole bunch of down votes all simultaneously on questions going back for some time. Petty people--whatcha gonna do?
    – Billy
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 17:45

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