In one episode of the TV show Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes is described as much of a grammar guy and love correcting grammatical issues. In that setting, he says this to Watson

Holmes: Oh, you meant "spectacularly ignorant" in a nice way! Look, it doesn't matter to me who's Prime Minister...

Watson: I know...

Holmes: ..or who's sleeping with who...

Grammatically, should he have used "whom"? Because it's the preposition object.

  • If it was the original Holmes maybe but this is a modern retelling (except for one episode). He also uses text speak BTW. Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 8:06
  • As a short guide to modern English, if it is followed by "the bell tolls" use "whom" otherwise use "who" (Joke stolen from some webcomic, smbc? perhaps) Actually I don't remember Sherlock being particularly a "grammar guy" (unlike, say, Inspector Morse) Do you have any examples of him correcting Watson's grammar? (even in the ACD books)
    – James K
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 12:29
  • @JamesK Thank you. Could this link indicate Sherlock being a "grammar guy"?
    – JJJohn
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 15:01
  • I think both exchanges just show Sherlock as a sociopath. Anyway, "Who" is well established as an object pronoun in modern English. And remember Holmes isn't a real person, he only speaks the works that the writers put in his mouth.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 15:20
  • 1
    From another perspective, that earlier exchange is enough to establish Sherlock as "a grammar guy", but it's not enough to establish the exact standard to which he adheres, or the circumstances under which he cares. One transcript has Mycroft immediately correcting Sherlock on the very point in question. In this context, we can expect both characters to know the traditional rule, but we also have reason at this moment to believe that Sherlock doesn't care. After all, that's the theme of his rant. Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


It should have been "with whom". And I've read about this mistake from the show, and the idea that Holmes, persnickety as he is, wouldn't have got this wrong (unless he was Moriarty at the time? Although he was persnickety, too.)

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