Who and Whom

“Who will Mitt speak to”?

Or is it:

“Whom will Mitt speak to”?

This isn’t about Mitt. It’s just the title of a piece I saw in a magazine. Is the title grammatically correct?

At first, I thought no, and that the author doesn’t know crap about grammar, but in the article itself, the author uses “whom” correctly: “[…] yet another move to please the hardcore GOP covers whom Romney already has.”

So the author does indeed seem to know when to use “whom.”

The question is whether the author should have used “whom” in the title of the piece.


“To whom will Mitt speak?”

"To whom will Mitt speak? At least, that’s the way I learned English grammar.

For one thing, titles of magazine and newspaper articles are not always written by the same person who wrote the article itself.

For another thing, titles and headlines sometimes take a form of license, sacrificing precision or grammatical correctness for brevity or punchiness.

And for what it’s worth, I vaguely remember reading in a high school grammar book that, even though “who” is correctly used in the subjective case and “whom” in the objective, using “who” where “whom” would be technically correct is permissible, or at least excusable, or at least not nearly as bad as using “whom” where “who” belongs.

  1. In informal English, including written text, it is not incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition. There are more formal registers in which the old bugaboo is still considered improper, but in this context it seems fine.

  2. Properly the first word should be Wghom, as the object of the preposition to with which the sentence ends. However, this is a disjunctive use; the two words are in no way adjacent. And in strictly informal usage, whom has more and more been giving way to who.

Bring the to bsck to the beginning of the sentence, and the situation changes; anyone without a tin ear will look for to whom. But “Who will Mitt speak to?” is not incorrect in informal writing.

As Churchill said, and I can’t remember exactly, “obeying the stricture to never end a sentence with a proposition is one up with which I cannot put.”

“Excuse me, where’s the library at?”
“I’m sorry, but here at Harvard, we don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”
“Okay…where’s the library at, asshole?”

“Whom” should be the “correct” pronoun, but it sounds like you got a stick up your ass if you use it.

“Whom . . . to” is one of my pet peeve constructions. I know that the who/whom distinction is grammatically meaningful, while the rule about prepositions was never anything but BS, but I can’t help but feel that if you’re going to maintain one, you should maintain the other. “Whom . . . to” sounds as wrong to me as “to who.” It’s mixing registers.

Even in very formal contexts, wghom is hardly ever used these days.

“Excuse me, where’s the library at?”
“It’s, like, all about books and stuff, man.”

Who goes before the verb; whom goes after the verb.

Who ate the chicken?
The chicken ate whom?

In this was, the grammar is the same as I (subjective pronoun) and me (objective pronoun).

Do not get me started on Lenin’s famous questions, “Who? Whom?” He was asking who should give the orders and to who should the orders be given.

“Who will be spoken to by Mitt Romney?”

Whom averted!

Sure about this? (Bolding is mine). :smiley:

While this rule sometimes works, it gives the wrong answer in the example posed by the OP. It would also fail in the well-known line of Donne, “For whom the bell tolls”.

That’s simply an unwillingness to use voiceed laryngeal fricatives. No sense of adventure among English speakers these days! :smiley:

Or it could be a typo.

It’s still prescriptively correct to say, “Whom did the chicken eat?”, even though the interrogative pronoun is before the verb.

It’s not about syntax, but rather, case, so–as Polycarp notes–it’s not supposed to matter (prescriptively) that the preposition to is clinging to the verb speak at the end of the sentence in the OP’s example.

In present day English the (object) case is so evident directly after a preposition that even with informal speech many people will still often apply it and say, “To whom are you referring?”, etc.

In other words, it sounds “more correct” to say: “Who are you referring to?” than it does to say, “To who are you referring,” though neither is prescriptively “correct.”

If ‘whom’ were still in active use, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. After all, nobody asks about how to correctly use ‘who’ or ‘you’.

So we have this:

Just imagine a cover letter that begins: “To who it may concern:

Whom = him.
Who = he.

Any grammatical context that would require “him” needs “whom” in formal written English. In spoken English, “whom” has pretty much fallen out of the language altogether, though educated speakers will put it back in formal contexts.

“Don’t end a sentence with a preposition” was never a rule in spoken English. It was a rule in Latin, and imported into English because shouldn’t English grammar be like Latin? So it is incorrect to end a sentence with “to” in formal written English, but not really a problem in the spoken language.

Correct formal English: To whom will Mitt speak?
Standard spoken English: Who will Mitt speak to?

Whom will Mitt speak to? is sort of a weird hybrid between the two. I wouldn’t say it’s wrong, but I certainly wouldn’t use it in a headline.

To me, this alone refutes any notion of the “death” of whom.