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Edit: I am actually a native speaker of English, and I know that "whom" is not often used these days. However, the reason I am asking this question is to better understand grammar, so that I can compare and contrast English grammar with the grammar of French (a language I am trying to learn).


Suppose I want to speak English in a register that still uses the word "whom".

I understand that we use the word "who" if "who" is a subject:

Who ate my sandwich?

and that we use "whom" if "whom" is an object:

On whom do you have a crush?

But I'm confused which word I use in the following response about Marc, because the person I'm referring to with "who(m)" seems to be both an object and a subject:

-- Who are you hoping will choose you as their teammate?
-- It is Marc whom I want to ask me to be his teammate.

"I want Marc" makes Marc sound like an object; but "Marc asks me to be his teammate" makes Marc sound like a subject.

Questions: Do I use "who" or "whom" in the sentence about Marc? Why?

  • In the second example, "whom" is not objective (due to the verb to be). who refers Mark (and It). – user3169 Jan 29 '18 at 0:11
  • Could you explain why you think whom is an object in the first example? Take a look at "Which person are you hoping will choose you as your teammate?" which means the same thing. – user3169 Jan 29 '18 at 0:14
  • @user3169, for the example, "On whom do you have a crush?", I think "whom" is an object, because I could rearrange that question to be: "You have a crush on whom?". Or, as a statement, I might say "You have a crush on Gilles". In this case, "Gilles" is an object, so "You have a crush on whom?" makes "whom" an object. – silph Jan 29 '18 at 0:16
  • @user3169, (I just read your updated comment, and you have a point). I had written "whom", because if I turned that question into a statement, I might say "You are hoping Marc will choose you as a teammate" ; here, pause oh, here, Marc is definitely a subject. Interesting. – silph Jan 29 '18 at 0:20
  • ok, i fixed it. but it is strange. usually, if i say a sentence expressing an emotion about someone, then the question version will be "whom" : "I like Chris" -> "Whom do you like?" . "I hate Chris" -> "Whom do you hate?". "I think Chris is stupid" -> "Whom do you think is stupid?". So that's why I wrote "Whom are you hoping will pick you as their teammate?" – silph Jan 29 '18 at 0:20
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A quick word about who as a question-word. If the question-word replaces a direct object, you should in theory use whom but most people would use who, expecially in informal speech.

Who does Romeo love? British Council

When the question-word is used in a preposition phrase, more people would be inclined to use whom, especially in a formal or written setting, but the majority would use who in informal speech.

To whom do you wish to speak
Who do you wish to speak to?

Moving on to the use of who as a relative pronoun, the situation is similar. If the relative pronoun is substituting for the object of the relative clause, whom should be used. One might, for example, use this version in a formal setting:

The man whom you met yesterday is coming to dinner.

But these versions are much more common in informal speech

The man who you met yesterday is coming to dinner.
The man that you met yesterday is coming to dinner.
The man you met yesterday is coming to dinner.

Looking at your sentence, I think that most native English speakers would simply say

I want Marc to ask me to be his teammate

If you are desparate to use an over-complicated sentence, you could bypass the who/whom issue by saying

It is Marc that I want to ask me to be his teammate.

If you really want to sound pompous, then you could use the formal whom.

It is Marc whom I want to ask me to be his teammate.

  • I am only interested in the whom-who rules. Can you tell me why it is "whom" in "It is Marc whom I want to ask me to be his teammate"? – silph Jan 29 '18 at 9:59
  • Because the relative pronoun whom is substituting for the object X of the clause "I want X" – JavaLatte Jan 29 '18 at 10:10

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