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The girl I love hates me

Is the sentence grammatically correct?

My teacher says it should be

the girl who I love hates me

  • 44
    Side problem with your teacher's version: "who" should be "whom" – Don Hatch Apr 4 at 22:15
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    If your teacher is really that picky it should be 'the girl whom I love', but this borders on archaic. – Marquis of Lorne Apr 4 at 22:16
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    Your teacher can't be a native speaker of any form of standard English used in the northern hemisphere if he or she thinks there is anything wrong with "the girl I love". I would suspect that this person has not been exposed to any actual English literature or other language-based cultural artifacts: films, songs, .. – Kaz Apr 5 at 1:20
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    Pro tip: if your friend tells you: "The girl I love hates me", don't respond by correcting their grammar. – mwfearnley Apr 5 at 15:07
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    whom is archaic. I have never heard anyone outside of an English class used it. – Keith Loughnane Apr 6 at 9:36
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Unfortunately, your teacher is wrong.

A relative pronoun can be dropped when the relative clause has a non-subject gap, that is, a missing element that is not functioning as the subject of the clause. In this case, the missing element is the direct object of the verb "love". Therefore, the relative pronoun can be safely omitted.

The girl [(who) I love ___ ] hates me

(The '___' indicates the gap)

Now compare:

*She is the girl [___ hates me]

The sentence above is ungrammatical. That's because the gap is in the subject position. It should be:

She is the girl who [___ hates me]

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    There are cases, however, where it should be retained to provide clarity. – Acccumulation Apr 4 at 23:33
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    @Accumulation Yeah, agreed. Sometimes the relative clause might be too long so you'll need the relative pronoun as a marker. – user178049 Apr 5 at 1:39
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I hope your teacher didn't say that! The first is perfectly proper but for the second to be grammatical it would have to be "The girl whom I love"!

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  • 17
    Modern usage allows who in place of whom (in most cases) – Jeffrey Apr 4 at 23:07
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    The "who" is acceptable objective case in modern English. – Acccumulation Apr 4 at 23:32
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    @user247327 It could be that only Valley Girls used who instead of whom in 1920, but today it is "who" as an object is acceptable even in formal speaking and writing. That ship sailed decades ago. I like "whom" and use it myself, but it's just a personal choice. – Kaz Apr 5 at 1:17
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    In modern English, the use of "who" in place of "whom" is widely accepted. The only place you can't use "who" is when it is directly preceded by a preposition: *"to who you're talking?". – user178049 Apr 5 at 1:42
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    @user178049 "To who you're talking?" isn't grammatical. "To whom are you talking?" is grammatical but pretentiously archaic. "Who are you talking to?" is modern English. And nobody (except possibly a few Americans who haven't given up obsolete expressions) would say "Whom are you talking to?" – alephzero Apr 5 at 2:03
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In the US such an instance of "who"/"whom" would be considered redundant or stuffy, and the usual usage would be:

The noun that I verb opposite-verb(s) me.

Or, the implied version:

The noun I verb opposite-verb(s) me.


Note: "noun who" vs. "noun that", the rule seems to be that for a proper noun, (one that refers to a specific individual, or emphasizes a person's unique traits), use who; and for a noun that emphasizes class or set membership, (i.e. the class or set of all beloved young women), use that.

So if there were three girls named Mary standing in a row, then to say:

The Mary who I love is that girl on the right.

...would distinguish the individual Mary #3 as your favorite, who happens to be girl #3 as well.

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  • 1
    There are various pro-con usage articles about who vs. that online, but SFAIK those tend to take several pages to say what's summarized above, making it a bit pointless to reference them... – agc Apr 5 at 18:29

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