Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Whomever? Whatever!

Two stalwart Good Word subscribers, Stan Davis and Jere Mitchum, wrote a day or two ago about my use of whomever in my writeup of kudos. Stan wrote, “In your e-mail featuring kudos, you wrote: “Kudos [ku-dahs] is due whomever repaired the faucet in the ladies restroom.”

“Shame, shame!! The correct form in this sentence would be whoever. The choice between whoever and whomever is governed by the use of the word IN ITS OWN CLAUSE, not by how the whole clause is used. Thus whoever is the subject of repaired and requires the nominative case, while the whole clause acts as the indirect object of due.”

I actually had written whoever in my original version of the Good Word but one of my editors chided my cowardice in giving up on whom forms and I couldn’t refuse the inherent dare in his comment. When I asked him about the rule Stan and Jere raised, his response was, “…I’ve just consulted the Oxford Fowler’s Modern English Usage Dictionary and after a quick scan of the five pages devoted to who, whom and their cousins, have concluded he [Fowler] agrees with your correspondent.”

The point, therefore, must be conceded with apologies and one brief note: this sort of confusion probably contributes to the loss of whom those of my generation are currently suffering: the simplest way to avoid breaking this rule is to simply use who everywhere.

One Response to “Whomever? Whatever!”

  1. Jose Blanco Says:

    I teach freshman composition, and I am astonished by how often students, in attempting to sound more sophisticated than they think they are, use “whom” instead of “who.” The difference between the use of “who” and “whom” is not THAT difficult, but the distinction seems to be dying out in popular usage.

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