Rarely do we use whom in everyday conversation. Let's face it. When is the last time you heard someone say (or heard yourself say) "Whom did you speak with on the telephone this afternoon?" Huh? Still, even though we may choose not to use whom when chatting with (or about) our best friend, we need to be sure to use who/whom correctly when writing. Even experienced writers can get hung up on what sounds right versus what is correct.
Instead of discussing pronouns, subjects and objects (you can read about those on Grammar Girl) we're going to give you the super simple way to know when to use who and when to use whom.
Think of who as married to he and whom as married to him -- whom ends in m as does him so they go together very nicely.
Who = He
Whom = Him
So, what do we mean by Who = He and Whom = Him?
Simple: When trying to decide which pronoun to use, ask yourself if the answer to the question would be he or him. For instance, in the above graphic the answer to the question "Whom did you throw the ball to?" would be "I threw the ball to him." Therefore, we must use whom since Whom = Him.
Conversely, the answer to "Who threw the ball?" must be he, because we don't say "Him threw it." Babies learning to speak might say that, but we'll give them a pass just this once.
Finally, using the example that we started this post with -- "Whom did you speak with on the telephone this afternoon?" it must be whom (him), because we did not speak with he on the telephone.
Astute readers might bring up the fact that if we are not talking about a male member of society, does the rule still apply? Indeed it does -- you'll need to pretend the subject or object is always male. If you can think of another trick that is not so gender-biased, feel free to share it in the comment section.
As always, all other questions concerning grammar, punctuation, and writing are welcome!
One thing that we see a lot of confusion over is whether to write out numbers in numeral form or to spell them. Unfortunately, while there are a few basic rules to follow, there are several accepted methods of addressing this issue. The biggest thing to remember is that whatever form you choose to adopt -- be consistent throughout your writing.
Here are a few guidelines:
Typically, it is recommended to spell out numbers one through nine (just as I did here) and use numerals for the number 10 or greater (again, just as I did here). This is a simple rule to remember and should not get you into too much trouble. There are exceptions, however, and this is where things can get a little dicey. For instance, technically, I've already made an error in this paragraph.
You can mix and match numerals and spelling within the same sentence as long as you are consistent within a category. For example, using the old apples-to-apples comparison, if you are talking about two or more sets of apples in a sentence and one of those sets exceeds nine, you can choose to use numerals for all sets (even if you have a set that is nine or less). If, in the same sentence you are writing about sets of oranges (or cats or cows), you can choose to spell out the number of items if one of the sets happens to be a single digit. For example: "I gave each of the ten cows 11 apples, but only seven of the cows ate 3 apples each." See how that works? The number of cows is spelled out and I chose numerals for the apples. However, it would not be correct to write: "The seven cows ate 21 apples." Don't mix and match in the same sentence if there is only one set per category. Whatever you choose, choose consistency.
To confuse things a bit more, always write out a number if it begins a sentence, for instance, "Twenty-one apples fell victim this afternoon to seven cows." I would have spelled out twenty-one anyway to be consistent with the seven cows, but had I not quantified the cows and just said "a bunch of cows," the beginning-of-a-sentence rule would have taken over. Remember to hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine.
There are lots of rules and suggestions for writing out numbers, honestly, it can make your head spin. If you just remember the above guidelines, then you can look up individual situations as you come upon them.
For a more detailed look at the treatment of numbers, you can check out one of my favorite go-to sites -- GrammarBook.com. There is also a nice list there of the Rules for Writing Numbers.
Do you have any questions? Did you learn something new today? Be sure to leave all questions and comments in the comment section. We'll get back to you shortly.
Bonus question: How many apples were left uneaten by the cows?
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