In this sentence:

During the American Revolutionary War, about 14000 British
loyalists returned to Britain, _____ in 1783.

A. most of whom.
B. most of them.

I know the answer is B, but I can't understand why it's B, what is the diference between them. Could you explain it to me?

2 Answers 2


You can't use "whom" this way because a verb is missing.

If it was phrased this way:

"During the American Revolutionary War, about 14000 British loyalists returned to Britain, most of whom returned in 1783."

That would be okay. It is grammatically correct but a little wasteful using the word "returned" twice. That is why your second example using "them" is better, because the word is referring back to the returning British loyalists you have already named.

  • 2
    +1 Quite correct, although why we can't use most of whom when there's no verb there is a mystery to me. May 18, 2018 at 14:49
  • @Araucaria You got me with the million of examples. Lesson learnt
    – RubioRic
    May 18, 2018 at 15:44
  • 1
    @RubioRic I like your posts a lot. We've got to make sure our stuff's accurate though (more easily said than done!) :-) May 18, 2018 at 15:47
  • 1
    @Araucaria Thanks! I agree with you about the accuracy. There is no equivalent "object of a preposition" that I know of in Spanish, my native language. This got me a bit confused. Thanks for your help.
    – RubioRic
    May 18, 2018 at 15:54

Since Araucaria has demurred, let me venture an explanation for why we cannot say there most of whom in 1783 but we can say there most of them in 1783. It is Friday "Happy Hour" here so caveat lector.

who can be a relative pronoun

About 14,000 people who were British loyalists returned to England in 1783.

It heads the relative clause there.

When we wish to use who as a relative pronoun but in a way that refers to some portion of the group to which who refers, we use the preposition of, and when who is the object of a preposition its objective case, whom, is used.

About 14,000 people most of whom were British loyalists returned to England in 1783.

About 14,000 people, of whom most were British loyalists, returned to England in 1783.

Of those who returned, a few just wanted to say hi to their folks. They were not 100% loyalists.

Now they is not a relative pronoun. If they (nominative case) heads a clause, they is a subject, and that clause is not a relative clause.

About 14,00 people returned to England in 1783. They were loyalists.

And when they is the object of a preposition, it too goes into the objective case, them.

About 14,000 people returned to England in 1783. Most of them were loyalists.

We can restate that last sentence with ellipsis or omission of the verb BE:

About 14,000 people returned to England in 1783, most of them Ø loyalists.

There is probably a fancy term for most of them loyalists, or there may even be dueling fancy terms, but it comes down to understanding the implicit presence of some form of the verb-to-be there:

.... most of them [BEING] loyalists.

P.S. And when BE is missing in such a clause, the clause just gloms onto the preceding main clause without any sort of connector.

P.P.S. And it can glom onto the front of the sentence:

Most of them loyalists, 14,000 people returned to England in 1783.

  • Is that supposed to be glom on to or glom onto? I'm not sure why the same publisher put it two different ways (the examples there use only on to). (In COCA the results are skewed slightly towards onto.)
    – user3395
    May 18, 2018 at 21:51
  • 1
    @user2684291: Those are simply vagaries of orthography, which is an imperfect representation of the spoken language. May 18, 2018 at 21:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .