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I would like to know if whom can be used in this sentence:

I commend the authors for discussing the discrepancy between minority medical students and the disproportionate percentage of whom apply to plastic surgery.

closed as off-topic by Janus Bahs Jacquet, marcellothearcane, jimm101, Skooba, David Mar 4 at 23:35

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  • 3
    No. Whom has no referent here. At the surface level, you could fix that simply by replacing "of whom" with "that" and you're golden. However, I'm not sure that "minority medical students" is a thing. What exactly are you trying to say there. It's sort of clear what you're getting at but that's not how I'd phrase it. And that's really the real culprit here, because that's why the whom is missing a referent. Once you fix that bit, everything else might fall into place all by itself. – RegDwigнt Mar 2 at 19:15
  • Who is correct because it is the subject of the verb apply. – Black and White Mar 3 at 3:26
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Your sentence does not make sense. For the word "whom" to be used correctly, the word "and" should not be there. But if we remove the "and", the sentence is still wrong:

I commend the authors for discussing the discrepancy between minority medical students, a disproportionate percentage of whom apply to plastic surgery. ❌

The part after the comma is now providing non-essential information and can be dropped, and you're left with an incomplete sentence:

I commend the authors for discussing the discrepancy between minority medical students ... [and what?]

Many people seem to be under the impression that "whom" is just a universal way to refer to a person mentioned earlier in the sentence. This is not the case. Here is a site that summarizes the usage of "of whom" and "of which": https://www.grammarbank.com/whose-of-which-of-whom.html. I'm sure there are many others.

You can remove the misused "whom" from your sentence and rewrite it correctly as:

I commend the authors for discussing the discrepancy between minority medical students and the disproportionate percentage of them who apply to plastic surgery.

The problem now is with the meaning. How can you have a "discrepancy" between one group and another?

I would rewrite your sentence as:

I commend the authors for discussing the disproportionate percentage of minority medical students who wish to specialize in plastic surgery.

I have changed "apply to", which is misused in your original sentence. (Medical students may colloquially say "I applied to plastic surgery", but this is short for something like "I applied for admission into the plastic surgery department".) I still don't like the verb "discuss". It would be better to explain what specifically the authors did that was so commendable; e.g, "drawing attention to", "studying".

  • I'd put a comma after 'medical students' – marcellothearcane Mar 2 at 19:34
  • Not necessarily - it would make for easier reading, so you know where to pause. – marcellothearcane Mar 2 at 19:39
  • @marcellothearcane: Whether a comma follows the word "who" or not is not a matter of preference. I recommend that you look at the link I provided, or any grammar book. – hguler Mar 2 at 19:49
  • I’m sorry – reading the sentence on its own now, I see that you’re right. I got lost between the different versions of the sentence because I originally wanted to rephrase the (very unclear) original sentence by changing “and the disproportionate percentage of whom apply” to “and the disproportionate percentage of those who apply”, so that meaning stuck in my head. Your rephrasing has a significantly different meaning where “percentage of them || who apply” does make sense. I’ll delete my previous comments, since they are misleading. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 2 at 19:50
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet: Thank you for clarifying. I'll delete mine too after you delete yours. – hguler Mar 2 at 19:51
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No. It almost works, similar to

We received many cancellations today, the majority of which were weather related.

and

We saw all our neighbors today at the grocery store, many of whom were preparing for tomorrow's expected snow storm.

But you have to make sure that when you use "discrepancy" you are comparing one kind of apple to another kind of apple.

You'll get into less trouble if you try to use simple sentences (i.e. not compound) as much as possible. The easy way to do this is by reading a few pages of Hemingway every day before you write.

Bonus:

I commend the authors for pointing out the disproportionate percentage of minority medical students who apply to plastic surgery.

Extra bonus: you may want to consider using a more old-fashioned style that shifts the focus away from the author (you):

The authors must be commended for etc.

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