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Whoever vs. Whomever

In the “English Rules” section of our website, GrammarBook.com, you will find our simple explanation for determining whether to use who or whom.

Briefly, this is the trick:
who = he (subject pronouns)
whom = him (object pronouns)

Example: Who/Whom is at the door?
He is at the door.

Example: For who/whom should I vote?
Should I vote for him?

To determine whether to use whoever or whomever,  the he/him trick still applies:
he = whoever
him = whomever

Rule 1: The presence of whoever or whomever indicates a dependent clause. Use whoever or whomever to agree with the verb in that dependent clause, regardless of the rest of the sentence.

Examples:
Give it to whoever/whomever asks for it first.
He asks for it first. Therefore, whoever is correct.

We will hire whoever/whomever you recommend.
You recommend him. Therefore, whomever is correct.

We will hire whoever/whomever is most qualified.
He is most qualified. Therefore, whoever is correct.

 

Rule 2: When the entire whoever/whomever clause is the subject of the verb that follows the clause, analyze the clause to determine whether to use whoever or whomever.

Examples:
Whoever is elected will serve a four-year term.
Whoever is the subject of is elected. The clause whoever is elected is the subject of will serve.

Whomever you elect will serve a four-year term.
Whomever is the object of elect. Whomever you elect is the subject of will serve.

 

Pop Quiz

  1. Omar will talk about his girlfriend with whoever/whomever asks him.
  2. Kimiko donates her time to whoever/whomever needs it most.
  3. Quinton will work on the project with whoever/whomever you suggest.
  4. Whoever/Whomever wins the lottery will become a millionaire.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. Omar will talk about his girlfriend with whoever asks him.
  2. Kimiko donates her time to whoever needs it most.
  3. Quinton will work on the project with whomever you suggest.
  4. Whoever wins the lottery will become a millionaire.

Posted on Sunday, May 27, 2007, at 9:41 pm


23 Comments

23 Responses to “Whoever vs. Whomever

  1. Daniel says:

    Omar will talk about his girlfriend with whomever…
    Omar will talk with whomever…
    Omar talks with whomever…

    Kimiko donates to who needs it [the] most.

    Qinton will work the project with whom you suggest.

    Whomever wins the lottery will be a millionaire.

    Give it to whom who asks for it first.

    We will hire whomever is most qualified.

    Whomever elected will serve a four-year term.

    Whom you elect will serve a four-year term.

    Professor Jane Straus,

    Know that proper grammar is determined by etiquette.

    • Jane says:

      The sentences in your comments contain numerous errors. Proper grammar has been determined over hundreds of years and is continuously evolving over time. What is considered proper etiquette is likewise constantly evolving and is not necessarily correlated to proper grammar.

  2. avinash says:

    thanks ….. for ur help

    • Jane says:

      You are very welcome! (Although, since we are a grammar and punctuation website and blog, we feel obliged to remind you of the untexted version, “Thanks for your help.”)

  3. Leigh Ann says:

    Still a little confused…please advise…thinking “whoever” is appropriate here:

    “…and offer her help to whoever would stop and listen.”

    Whoever or whomever?

    • Jane says:

      To determine whether to use whoever or whomever, here is the trick:
      him + he = whoever
      offer to help him, he would stop and listen

      Sandy would stop by and offer her help to whoever would stop and listen.

  4. Luke says:

    My friend wrote a sentence that said, “To whomever dragged my trashcan down the street, that was a good prank.”

    I told him he should have said “whoever” but he disagrees since the word “to” precedes his use of whomever. He claims it is the “dative case”. Can you clear up this confusion?

    The letter is to him. He dragged the trash can. Therefore, we use whoever. Correct?

    • Jane says:

      You are correct. The letter is to him (or, I am writing to him). He dragged the trash can. Him + he = whoever. Regarding the dative case, in general, the dative marks the indirect object of a verb, which is not the case here.

  5. Alex says:

    I saw the following in a television show:

    To whomever I may have hurt, the world and all its problems are just too much.

    I may have hurt him. He is hurt.
    So: whoever?

    Or is it just I may have hurt him: Whomever I may have hurt?

    • Jane says:

      (I am writing) to him. I may have hurt him. Him + him = whomever.
      To whomever I may have hurt, the world and all its problems are just too much.

  6. Tumbul says:

    I saw these sentences in a respectable Newspaper; can you confirm their correct usage of Who/Whom, Whoever/Whomever, and explain?

    1) There is a special place in hell for whomever thinks it is ok to steal from a dead person.
    2) I don’t know who was hitting who.
    3) Mr. Johnson, whom Mary said….
    4) Trying to figure out who to vote for….

    • Jane says:

      The Grammar Rules on our website cover Who vs. Whom as well as Whoever vs. Whomever:
      Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct.
      he = who
      him = whom

      To determine whether to use whoever or whomever, here is the rule:
      him + he = whoever
      him + him = whomever

      There is a special place in hell for whoever thinks it is ok to steal from a dead person.
      (There is a special place in hell for him; he thinks it is ok to steal from a dead person.)

      I don’t know who was hitting whom.
      (He was hitting him.)

      Mrs. Johnson, who Mary said brought the salad…
      (Mary said (s)he brought the salad.)

      I am trying to figure out whom to vote for.
      (Vote for him.)

  7. Robin says:

    The sentence is: Please give this reply to whoever/whomever wrote the email. How does the he+him rule apply here? I believe it is “whomever” since you can use “him”.

    • Jane says:

      To determine whether to use whoever or whomever, here is the trick:
      him + he = whoever
      him + him = whomever

      Please give this reply to him; he wrote the email. Since the “him + he” rule applies here, use whoever.

      Please give this reply to whoever wrote the email.

  8. Brandon says:

    Okay, I don’t quite understand why the noun clause matters in determining who/whom.

    E.g., Give it to whoever/whomever asks for it first.

    The noun phrase “who(m)ever asks for it first” is the predicate. Why wouldn’t it simply follow the rules of predicate

    Why does the fact that the pronoun is a phrase instead of just a single word have any barring on who/whom?

    Give it to whom?
    Give it to him.

    “Him” is the equivalent substitution for the noun phrase “whomever asks for it first.” You can have a thousand words in the phrase “whomever asks for it first” and it’s still the “him” pronoun.

    “. . . whomever asks for it with a nice, sunny disposition, purple pants, a wink and a smile first” is the same as just truncated it into a single pronoun: him.

    That phrase should never be a “he”-phrase, no matter if it were one word, two words, a phrase, or a parenthetical series of gibberish and nonsense.

    It should be a simple substitution.

    Is this just one area (in many) where logic simply doesn’t win out?

    • Jane says:

      “Give it to who/whom?” is a sentence of one clause and is a different sentence from “Give it to whoever/whomever asks for it first,” a sentence of two clauses where you must consider each clause before deciding whether to use whoever or whomever. Since you cannot substitute him in both clauses (Give it to him. He asks for it first.) the correct sentence is “Give it to whoever asks for it first.”

  9. Johnnie says:

    Pop Quiz:
    1, 2 & 3 The correct answer should be “whomever” as it is the objective form of the pronoun which follows the preposition (“to” or “with”).

    4. Correct as “Whoever” is the subject.

    • The presence of whoever or whomever indicates a dependent clause. Use whoever or whomever to agree with the verb in that dependent clause, regardless of the rest of the sentence. To determine whether to use whoever or whomever, the he/him rule applies (he=whoever, him=whomever).

      1. Omar will talk about his girlfriend with whoever asks him.
      He asks him. Whoever is correct.

      2. Kimiko donates her time to whoever needs it most.
      He needs it most. Whoever is correct.

      3. Quinton will work on the project with whomever you suggest.
      You suggest him. Whomever is correct.

      4. Whoever wins the lottery will become a millionaire.
      He wins the lottery. Whoever is correct.

  10. Yusuf says:

    You guys at ”grammarbook” are doing such a terrific job. The problems of who/whom/whoever/whomever usage are henceforth consigned to history in my grammar. Thank you.

  11. Jordan says:

    Hi! You know you’re a bored grammar nerd when you take who/whom quizzes online for fun, and basically, I have a question because I was passing these tests with flying colors until I came across this question:

    “Give this jacket to ____ seems to need it most.”

    I answered whoever, because I figured it would be a who+whom= whoever equation, and “he seems to need it most”. On the first site I was told that was correct. On another quiz they said it was wrong. I’m hoping I just took a bum quiz the second time around but I want to be sure. I mean, does “seems to” appearing in the sentence somehow change anything?

    Please forgive any weird spacing and such – I’m typing on a Kindle. :)

    Thanks so much in advance!

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