Tough grammar question

“I’ll give the ticket to whoever needs it.” or “I’ll give the ticket to whomever needs it.” Which is right? Maybe both are wrong. Unless I get some good advice from the TM, I might have to change it to, “I’m just keeping the damn ticket for myself!”

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
To who?
To whom.

from merriam-webster online:

Main Entry: whom·ev·er
Pronunciation: hü-'me-v&r
Function: pronoun
objective case of WHOEVER

Your first choice is correct. In this case, the choice of “whoever” is based on the fact that it is the subject of the clause “whoever needs it.” That clause in turn, in its entirety, is the object of the preposition “to.”

So (yes, I know it’s confusing) you would say, “To whom shall I give this ticket? I’ll give it to whoever needs it.”

And bless you for being so generous. :wink:

Both “whoever” and “whomever” are pronouns, “whomever” being the objective case of “whoever.” “…to whomever…” is correct.

No, no, no! “Whoever” is correct. This is one of the most commonly confused grammatical issues. Wish I had time to find an online cite. Would one of the other grammar mavens please step in?

Once again, Scarlett67 has it right.

Ethilrist and plnnr … I’m so disappointed.

No cite needed, Scarlett67.

Just replace one object with another and see how much disappears:

Wrong answer
I’ll give the ticket to Jack needs it.

Right answer
I’ll give the ticket to Jack.

I knew I could count on the SDMB for a quick answer. I also knew I could count on a battle, however this one seems fated to die quickly, thanks mostly to Scarlett’s* superior weaponry. In the interest of further roiling the waters, I’ll ask when is it grammatically correct to use “whomever”? Is, “I’ll give the ticket to whomever,” correct? If so, it is interesting that adding “needs it” changes the case.

  • Scarlett67 as in born in '67. Hey me too! Are you single or planning to be? My whole life I’ve dreamt of meeting a woman who knew her nominative and objective cases apart.

Even though no cite is needed, here’s one anyway – it’s even the same example – from The Mavens

KneadToKnow, thanks for the backup! But I think your example needs a little fleshing out to be perfectly clear to folks who might still be lost:

Who needs the ticket? Jack needs it. He needs it. I’ll give the ticket to whoever needs it.

To whom will I give the ticket? To Jack. To him.

Greg, I think you’ve got it! “I’ll give the ticket to whomever” is correct. And sorry, no, I’m spoken for. :wink:

Once again, Scarlett67 is correct. Your two examples “I’ll give the ticket to whoever needs it” and “I’ll give the ticket to whomever” actually have very different meanings, so it’s not surprising that removing the “needs it” changes the “whoever” to “whomever.”

A larger question is whether these different forms really serve that much of a purpose. We have managed pretty well since we got rid of “thou” and “thee.” It appears that the distinction between “who” and “whom” may be on its way out as well. Two usage guides available at, The American Heritage Book of English Usage and The Columbia Guide to Standard American English mention how the distinct between “who” and “whom” has blurred more (though even Shakespeare sometimes interchanged the two).

Sigh, well it never hurts to put the offer on the table. I’m trying to figure out if, “I’m spoken for,” is some kind of pun.

Thanks Jeff for that link, and Ethilrist, even though you were ultimately proven wrong, I still appreciate the knock, knock joke.

Well, on the theory that you grammar guru types will be checking back on this thread, I have a new question. I’m tutoring a girl in the SAT II Writing test, and we have a problem.

“If Tom Cruise was an actor in the Golden Age of Hollywood, he would have given different types of roles.”

I’m aware that this is wrong. However, should it be “were” or “had been”? I’m convinced it should be “had been”, but I need a really solid reason. My logic has been that since we are not discussing a situation that could be generalized to Tom’s life overall, or that could be conceivably true now, we need to use “had been.”

We could say “If Tom were a better actor, he might be given different roles”, but this refers to a situation that is generalized across his possible current state.

Any comments?

First, just let me say that reading this thread has put a line from Heaven Help Us in my head (if you’ve seen the movie, you know which one, but I’ll enlighten those who [tee-hee!] haven’t):

“To WHOM, Brother! . . . To WHOM, Brother! . . . [repeat]”

JeffB, thanks for the excellent cite!

Greg, um, no I don’t think so. If there’d been a pun available, I’d have put one in!

Dave S, these are your two possibilities:

“If Tom Cruise had been an actor in the GAOH, he would have been given different types of roles.” (subjunctive mood: statement contrary to fact, occurring in the past)

“If Tom Cruise were an actor in the GAOH, he would be given different types of roles.” (subjunctive mood: statement contrary to fact, occurring in the present)

The subjunctive, which expresses a statement contrary to fact or a wish, confuses a lot of people because it looks like past tense.

“If I were beautiful, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you.” Present tense, subjunctive. I’m not beautiful, but I wish I were.

“If I had been beautiful when I was young, I would have married a prince.” Past tense, subjunctive. I was not beautiful when I was young (statement contrary to fact).

I hope this helps. I’m not totally up on grammar terminology, but I do know where to (painfully) look it up. As a freelance copyeditor, I edit “by ear” using my apparently natural sense of grammar, which has been augmented by brushes with education.

Wait! I was born in '67, am single, and know my nominative and objective cases! Oh, you said “woman”. Nevermind.

Hmmm, unless…um, no, of course not.

I’ve always been confused about, “if I was …” vs. “if I were …” I remember learning that the subjunctive “were” should be used in cases where what was being expressed was clearly infeasible. “If I were a bell, I’d be ringing.” On the other hand, “was” could be used when the condition could conceivably come true. “If this car was red, it would be worth more.” That seems to add whole judgement element and make grammar even more ambiguous than it already is.

Pointless banter follows:

Scarlett: it’s just that the “spoken for” in a thread about grammar seems to have the elements of a pun.

Dave S.: hey someone’s been here as long as I have, and has even fewer posts. Cool!

smaft: At this point, I’m not ruling anything out. Since I live in San Diego though, if I start going that way, I’ll probably get Esprix to show me the ropes.

I’ll try to help. Your second example is actually an improperly formed subjunctive; the car is not red, so we have a statement contrary to fact. The judgment comes with deciding whether you have a true subjunctive or a conditional—a “fact” whose truth is unknown.

So, to clarify your second example:

Wanna talk about “lie” and “lay” next? :wink:

Whoa! When did this become a flirt thread? :smiley:

The mistaken use of “whom” in cases wheere “who” should be used is an example of the grammatical error of “hypercorrection.”

Reword the sentence and you will see whether the nominative sense of the pronoun is called for. Just make the relative pronoun clause independent.

“I gave the ticket to who needed it” would be correct. Think about how wrong it would sound if you said:

“Whom needed it.”