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Question Words Who and Whom

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Lesson objectives: Learn question words in English.

Goals: Learn how to ask questions using “who” and “whom;” and understand when to use “who” and “whom” in formal and informal situations.

Prerequisite: Lesson requires a basic understanding of the verb to be in the present.

Level

 basic

Who and Whom?

Who and whom are question words that ask for specific information about people.

Who asks the question about the subject of the sentence, and whom asks the question about the object of the sentence or about the object of a preposition.

  • Using “Whom” as the object of the verb
  • There are two people in the following sentence: John and Jane.

    John is kissing Jane.

    That is what you see in the picture.

    John is the subject of the verb, and Jane is the object, so you can say,

    He is kissing her.

    To ask a question about the subject (John or he), you use who. To ask a question about the object (Jane or her), you use whom.

    Who is kissing Jane? — “John is” or “He is.”

    Whom is John kissing? — “He is kissing Jane“ or “He is kissing her.”

  • Using “Whom” as the object of the preposition
  • There are two people in the following sentence: John and Jane.

    John is fond of Jane.

  • John is the subject of the verb, and Jane is the object of the preposition “of,” so you can say,

    He is fond of her.

  • To ask a question about the subject (John or he), you say,

    Who is fond of Jane? — “John is” or “He is.”

  • To ask a question about the object of the preposition (of Jane or of her), you can say,

    Of whom is John fond? — “Of Jane” or “Of her.”

    Whom is John fond of? — “Of Jane” or “Of her.”

    Note. Both sentences above have the same meaning.

  • In informal, everyday English, you usually say,

    Who is John fond of?

  • More formal and informal examples asking about the object
  • Kareem loves his wife.

    Formal: Whom does Kareem love?

    Informal: Who does Kareem love?

  • I am learning English with Mr. Clark.

    Very formal: With whom are you learning English?

     Formal: Whom are you learning English with?

    Informal: Who are you learning English with?

  • We are going to the club with our friends.

    Very formal: With whom are you going to the club?

     Formal: Whom are you going to the club with?

    Informal: Who are you going to the club with?

  • Formal and Informal

  • In formal, academic English, you usually follow the rules for who as the subject and whom as the object. If you are taking an English test, there is a chance that they want you to know the difference between “who” and “whom.”

  • In informal, everyday English, you usually use only who in any situation. If you are not sure, use “who.”

Practice

Complete this exercise to practice asking questions using “who” and “whom.”

Other Lessons on Question Words

This list of lessons includes many other question words.

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