0

I'm not sure whether the following sentence requires who/whom:

Does anyone know who/whom I can speak with about that?

If a similar sentence began with who/whom, it would be "whom." Whom can I speak with about that? You can speak with "him" about that. Note, however, that this example uses "can I" vs. "I can."

However, I think the answer is "who" in this case. "Who I can speak with about that" is the direct object of "know."

Does anyone know what? Does anyone know "who I can speak with about that"?

Is it correct that since who/whom is part of a clause and not a direct object by itself (the whole clause is), the default answer is "who"?

I understand that "whom" has fallen out of use, but, nevertheless, I hope I can receive a detailed answer about the correct usage for the sake of improving my grammar.

  • 3
    In almost all cases where whom might be 'correct' in modern BrE who is acceptable; the use of whom is fast disappearing. On the other hand, nitpickers are very quick to spot an incorrect use of whom. If in doubt, use who, it's what most of us do most of the time. – High Performance Mark Nov 1 '19 at 11:18
  • 2
    60 years ago, 'whom' would have been the correct, grammatical, educated answer. If you used it today, you'd be out of step with 98%+ of native speakers. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 1 '19 at 14:22
  • It would've been with whom (object of the preposition, as in 'you can speak with her or him'). But that's ancient history... And for two and a half thousand years, or so, the word passed out of all knowledge. But, different story--"formal whom" and "obligatory whom"--see here (lexico.com/en/grammar/who-or-whom). – KannE Nov 1 '19 at 18:53
  • Quick-n-dirty method: 1. Forget about objects, all kinds. 2. Think about the subject of the isolated clause ("I" can speak--not "who" can speak). So, "who" is not the agent. "Who" must be something else then--"whom" in a former, more formal life. – KannE Nov 1 '19 at 19:52
  • 1
    Sorry I missed the "second with" questions. I was busy trying to find the 2nd link again, and I'm very slow. Anyway, you finally got your answer--YAY! – KannE Nov 3 '19 at 6:29
2
  • Does anyone know who/whom I can speak with about that?

As noted, the question to ask is what function the Wh-word has in the subordinate clause. If it's the subject of that clause, it has to be who. But I is the subject, so that's not a consideration.

If it's not the subject, then what is it? It would appear that the Wh-word refers to the object of speak with:

  • I can speak with Indef about that

So, since it's an object, you are officially allowed to use whom, if you really want to.
Remember, however, that using whom at all, ever, marks your speech as more formal than usual.

Remember also that most other English speakers don't know the official rule (Consider: you're confused about it -- how many others are?), and they often make up their own erroneous rules, which will cause them to judge your use of whom as incorrect, even if it is officially correct. So if you're using whom to be "correct", you'll have to be satisfied by your own superiority. In other words, you can't win.

The only reasonable solution is to never use whom. It serves no purpose and fulfills no need that you can't satisfy by using who (or occasionally that) instead. The only place it's actually required in English is as the object of a Pied-Piped preposition, i.e,

  • Does anyone know with whom I can speak about that?

is OK, but

  • *Does anyone know with who I can speak about that?

is ungrammatical.

Pied-Piping requires whom, but stranding the with at the end is equally grammatical,
since Pied-Piping is optional; and it's far more fluent:

  • Does anyone know who I can speak with about that?

... though my conversational American English would prefer:

  • Does anybody know who I can talk to about that?
|improve this answer|||||
  • Thank you! So just to clarify, a Pied-Piped preposition requires "whom" but a regular construction doesn't. Does that mean you can use both who/whom in the regular construction without Pied-Piping? Does anyone know who I can speak with about that? Does anyone know whom I can speak with about that? From now on, if I ever use "whom" in my writing, I'll try to make sure it's only used in places it's actually required. – user27343 Nov 2 '19 at 19:15
  • I'm glad he answered as well. Based on my question, do you think I understood his answer correctly? – user27343 Nov 2 '19 at 23:02
  • 1
    Whom is required when it's the object of a preposition. Since it's moved to the beginning in most constructions, that means the preposition has to be moved with it, keeping the phrase together. But that's optional, and relatively rare. – John Lawler Nov 3 '19 at 2:25
-5

It should be "Whom I can speak...", or "Who I can speak with..."

WHOM or WITH WHO

It doesn't matter whether the object is a clause or phrase or word, because the function of an object is similar in all these places.

|improve this answer|||||

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.