Question on grammar

"Who’s terrorizing whom here?

That quote is from Bob Herbert’s column in today’s Times. My question is about the grammar, not Bush’s illegal law enforcement practices - which the column deals with.

Although I’m no grammarian, it seems to me that there’s an error in the quote, above.

The subject of the sentence is Who. The verb is is terrorizing. and since this verb includes a form of the verb to be, there is no objective case. It’s nominative, isn’t it, and therefore the whom should be who. I think.

Shouldn’t the properly constructed sentence read, Who is terrorizing who here?

“Is” is not the main verb of the sentence. It’s an auxiliary to the main verb “terrorizing,” forming the present progressive tense. “Terrorizing” is a transitive verb, and thus the sentence does indeed have an object, “whom.” The sentence is correct as it stands.

That’s good. I’d hate to have one of my favorite columnists be caught with his grammatical pants down.

Thank you, Scarlett67 for the correction. :slight_smile:

“Whom” is so old-fashioned that it can sound wrong when it’s really right. To test whether you should use “who” or “whom” in a particular context try it out with a pronoun pair that change case forms, e.g, I/me, he/him or they/them:

Who’s terrorizing I here?
Who’s terrorizing me here?

Who’s terrorizing he here?
Who’s terrorizing him here?

Who’s terrorizing they here?
Who’s terrorizing them here?

In each case (at least for me), the second of each pair sounds far better – so “whom” it is.

Good tip, Giles. Thanks.