For many people, there is much confusion related to the usage of who and whom. As a result, many people today simply use who in all cases. However, close attention to a few details helps us differentiate them, and how to use them.
Who usually applies to a subject/noun that does an action in the sentence or clause.
(It is an active relative pronoun for an active subject.)
Whom always applies to a subject/noun that receives an action in a sentence or clause.
(It is a passive relative pronoun for a passive subject.)
To illustrate this difference, let us compare two simple examples first:
She is the colleague who helped me yesterday. (“She” is the subject, and she performed the action. This means “she helped me.”)
He is the colleague whom I helped yesterday. (“He” is the subject, but he did not perform the action. He received the action. This means “I helped him.”)
Sometimes who can be used with a passive subject, but the clause does not contain a subject pronoun after who. When there is a subject pronoun after, whom is used instead.
Here are two more illustrative examples:
“What are the names of the people who were interviewed today?”
(The performer of the action “interviewed” is not mentioned, so who can be used with people, the passive subject. This means “Someone interviewed them. What are their names?”)
“What are the names of the people whom we interviewed today?”
(The performer of the action “interviewed” is stated as the active pronoun “we”, so only whom can be used with people, the passive subject. This means “We interviewed them. What are their names?”)
I am friends with the man _______________ works at the market.
She is a great leader ______________ I support.
Where are the people ______________ were invited?
A person ______________ has learned many things also has many skills.
My best friends are the friends _____________ I love the most.
The person _____________ you are trying to reach is not available now. Please leave a message.
A person _____________ works hard is a person _____________ I respect.
You should be careful ____________ you trust with your secrets.
I don’t know __________ to call in order to fix this problem.
I know __________ I must call in order to fix this problem. I will call her right away.
Next, leave questions or comments with your own examples using who and whom, and I’ll provide feedback.