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"I just saw that guy throw a ball."

"[T]hat guy," the direct object, is now doing the action of "throw[ing]." So, could one ask, "Whom did you see throw the ball?" or should it be "Who did you see throw the ball?"

I would naturally replace "that guy" with "him" if I wished to say it that way, so--assuming that is correct--does that mean "that guy" is always treated as the object despite doing an action?

Sorry if my phrasing is confusing; thank you for any responses.

Edit: This has been marked as a duplicate, but the linked question does not answer mine.

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    The correct answer is Don't use whom. Ever. That will work in all circumstances. The fact that you have to ask about it means you don't know how to use it, and the same problem afflicts native speakers. So don't get caught. Just refuse to use whom, and go ahead and talk English. Aug 1, 2021 at 14:27
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    The OP's question concerns 1) a clause whose verb has a direct object O and an infinitive complement 2) whether it's "who" or "whom" in a related question. Each of the alleged duplicates addresses 1) or whether it's "who" or "whom" in some different construct, but not the combo of 1) and 2). // You say you would naturally replace "that guy" with "him". So would I. So it's "whom".
    – Rosie F
    Aug 1, 2021 at 14:54
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    99% of the time, @JohnLawler's position (always use who) will cover things. But to be "right" 99.9% of the time or better, just use whom whenever it immediately follows the preposition to (but nowhere else). Aug 1, 2021 at 17:16
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    Also other prepositions. See what happens when you start listing exceptions? Whom is an ex-pronoun. It's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible. Aug 1, 2021 at 17:21
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    @FumbleFingers But be sure to “give a call-back to whoever just called” because otherwise it's the wrong case! You can't use whomever after that particular instance of to because there the pronoun is the subject of its clause not the object of to; the entire clause is the prepositional object here and has its own scope internally.
    – tchrist
    Aug 1, 2021 at 18:33

1 Answer 1

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For the sake of illustration, let’s simplify your example and use a pronoun:

I saw him.

You can see that him is an object — the receiver of the verb see. That’s why we use the objective pronoun him rather than the subjective he.

Here’s the question for the answer:

Whom did you see?

Note that the verb see still needs an object — a receiver of the verb. So we use the objective pronoun whom rather than the subjective who.

Linguist Bryan Garner notes that the demise of whom has long been prophesied, but that whom is not dead yet. He continues:

In any event, writers in the 21st century ought to understand how the words who and whom are correctly used.
Source: Garner’s Modern American Usage

If you want to “talk English” (as linguist John Lawler says in the comments above), go ahead and use who. You’ll likely sound abnormal otherwise. But if you want to write English, I suggest — at least for the time being — that you seek the correct form.

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  • He's asking what to do when the pronoun is the subject of the infinitive clause, the way it is in I saw him throw the ball. There the subject of the non-finite verb is the oblique-case him.
    – tchrist
    Aug 1, 2021 at 18:41
  • @tchrist: I did not read the question that way. But even so, the bare-infinitive clause has no syntactic subject here; him is not its subject. I saw him. He threw the ball. I saw him throw the ball. He goes away. Aug 1, 2021 at 20:06
  • That's one way to analyse it, but hardly the only way nor always the most useful one. Non-finite clauses always take optional subjects in a different case than finite clauses do. It must be accusative in the case of an infinitive clause but is sometimes also genitive in the case of a gerund clause. I want to see (him throw the ball), I want to see (him throwing the ball), (Him throwing the ball) would be great to see, (His throwing the ball) would be great to see, (For him to throw a ball) is all I want to see. In all those cases, the subject of the non-finite clause is him or his.
    – tchrist
    Aug 1, 2021 at 20:45

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