I read this in a book:

We do not use whom when the preposition is in this position:

  • Mr. Lee, who I spoke to at the meeting, is interested in our proposal.

(not Mr. Lee, whom I spoke to ...)

But, what I know from here: how-can-one-differentiate-between-who-and-whom, Who is used when you are talking about the subject and Whom is used when we are talking about an object.

Is it the example above we're talking about object? So why not whom? Is it because a sentencd that has the preposition can't use whom?

  • 3
    Was this in a textbook of English grammar? This grammar detail is news to me. At the risk of sounding like a dummy, I think it's wrong.
    – Lorel C.
    Jun 11, 2021 at 23:23
  • 1
    I must second @Lorel here. I would use whom in that example, if I was trying to be correct.
    – randomhead
    Jun 11, 2021 at 23:34
  • It's becoming more common to use "who" rather than "whom", but it's 100% correct to use "whom". Lose that book
    – gotube
    Jun 12, 2021 at 4:57
  • @ LorelC. This is an excerpt from Unit 96 of English Grammar in Use, which is "the world's best-selling grammar book" according to the book's cover. Does this really wrong that the author made a weird mistake? Or is there complicated reasoning behind this that even many native speakers can't see?
    – catwith
    Jan 23, 2022 at 4:58

2 Answers 2


A lot of native English speakers avoid the use of "whom" at all, and substitute "who" in every case. I think it might be because they think saying "whom" makes you sound pedantic and over-educated.

Given that increasing trend, you will certainly hear people say things like,

"Mr. Lee, who I spoke to at the meeting, is interested in our proposal."

and anybody who corrected them would be (properly) considered an over-educated pedant.

It is pretty acceptable to use "who" when talking about an object (at least in the U.S. English that I'm familiar with), and I can believe there may be grammar texts that condone that usage. However, I haven't heard any authorities saying that "whom" for any objective case is actually wrong. I also have never been taught that the choice of "who"/"whom" would depend on the position of a preposition.

If this advice comes from an English grammar text, I share your surprise. My personal feeling is that the example is incorrect.

  • There is one construction where it can depend on the position of the prep, as in "To whom is he talking?" (not *"To who is he talking?").
    – BillJ
    Jun 12, 2021 at 5:49

"Whom" is correct. This is, however, something that native English speakers – especially American – will usually say incorrectly.

If you change the order of the words between the commas (known as an appositive) into a declarative sentence, it becomes "I spoke to whom at the meeting." This very clearly indicates that whom is an object.

However! Be careful when who or whoever start a separate clause! Consider the sentence.

I will give my donation to whoever needs it.

Here, you might think that "whomever" is correct because it appears after "to", but "whoever" is actually the correct word. This is because it is part of the clause "whoever needs it", and therefore it is treated as a subject. The whole clause "whoever needs it" becomes the object of the preposition "to" in this case.

  • Whoever needs it" is not a clause but a noun phrase in a 'fused' relative construction, where "whoever" means "any person who needs it".
    – BillJ
    Jun 12, 2021 at 11:13
  • It's a relative clause. It contains a subject and a verb, so it's a clause. You are correct that it is a relative one, however. writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/relative-clauses
    – tuxedobob
    Jun 13, 2021 at 1:21
  • There is no subject-predicate structure. It's an NP with "whoever" as 'fused' head and "needs us" as modifier. The head combines. or fuses. the functions of antecedent and relativised element. It is comparable with the non-fused "any person who needs it", which is clearly an NP.
    – BillJ
    Jun 13, 2021 at 3:47

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