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IELTS Grammar Tip: Who vs. Whom “Who are you?” “To whom it may concern.” “You sat by whom last night?’

Who and Whom are two words in English that confuse most users – both in IELTS writing and speaking. The best thing to avoid mistakes in using these two is by understanding the differences in their usage. This will eliminate misuse of who and whom.

WHO For starters, WHO is an interrogative pronoun. Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions. Most of the time, the antecedent of these pronouns are unknown.

Usage: 

In place of the subject of a question referring to a person

Examples: Who is going to the party organized by the president? Who are you? I think I met you before in a fund-raising in Cuba. Who will be the next person to be eliminated in their group? 

It is also used as a dependent clause marker that functions as the subject of the clause. Dependent clauses are clauses that cannot stand alone; therefore, it needs an independent clause to complete its meaning.

Examples: I talked to a person who convinced me that I should be careful of myself. (who convinced me that I should be careful of myself is the dependent clause. It is preceded by WHO which functions as the subject of the clause referring to the word a person) D o you know the man who killed ten women in Colorado? I heard he was a maniac. (who killed then women in Colorado is preceded by the word WHO that functions as the subject of the clause referring to the man)




Is used in place of the object in a question.

Examples: Whom did they see? Whom will they tell? Whom are you going to believe? 

It is also a dependent clause marker; however, it still functions as the object of the clause.

Examples: The man whom I talked to was a famous poet. In this sentence, we have to clauses: The man was a famous poet. I talked to him. Him in the second sentence refers to the man and functions as the object of the sentence. Hence, if we combine the two sentences we use WHO M instead of WHO because it is the object of the second sentence. She was with guy whom the people saw hit the child. We want to know whom the prize was given to. 

We also use WHOM after prepositions.

Examples: To whom it may concern, the letter was already forwarded to the general manager. To whom did the trophy go? That is the man to whom I made the deal. In written English, the rules are to be followed strictly. However, it is less important to abide by these rules in informal spoken language. For more practice, log online and find exercises for who and whom.



Some useful infographics:

You may also refer to the following for other IELTS grammar tips: Preposition – in, on, at (when indicating time and place)  

Preposition – to, for, of





Ielts grammar tip whIELTS Grammar Tips: Who vs Whom