Yet Another Article about When to Use "Who" and "Whom"

by Tina Blue
January 28, 2007

In "The Case for Pronouns" and "More on When to Use 'Who' and 'Whom'" I address the proper use of a pronoun that causes no end of difficulty for many writers. Recently, I received an email from a reader who wanted me to clarify which form of the pronoun would be appropriate in a certain type of sentence.

He asked, "Is it proper to use "who" in the following way?"

      ~"We praise him, who is taller than the others."

This sentence is indeed correct, because "who" is the subject of the clause "who is taller than the others" and must therefore be in the nominative case.

The pronoun "him" is in the objective case because it is the direct object of the verb "praise." But "who is taller than the others" is a separate (relative) clause, and it has its own subject--in this case, "who." When "who" is the subject of a clause, it must be in the case appropriate to subjects--the nominative case.

In "The Case for Pronouns" I give a similar sample sentence:

     ~"All things come to him who waits."

In this sentence "him" is the object of the preposition "to," so it is in the objective case. But "who waits" is a relative clause with its own subject, "who," in the nominative case.

One way to determine the case of your "who" is to separate the structure it appears in from the rest of the sentence. You would not say, "Whom waits?"just as you would not say "Him waits" or "Her waits."

Similarly, you would not say, "Him is taller than the others," so you would not say "Whom is taller than the others." The fact that the relative clause is a modifier in another clause does not change its own grammatical structure.

"Who" is the proper form of the pronoun to use when it acts as the subject of a clause, whether that clause is independent or dependent.

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