Sentence that needs correction:

"Angela was curious about the unopened letter on the table and wondered for whom it was meant."

I think the whom should be replaced with who because the sentence can be rewritten as

Angela was curious about the unopened letter on the table and wondered "who was it meant for?"

Correct answer: the sentence contains no error.

why am I wrong?

  • These days it's unlikely anyone except an extreme pedant would criticise you if you used who in all cases (most would never even notice that sometimes you could have used whom). But if you insist on using whom, you run the risk of getting it wrong - and then even some "not-particularly-pedantic" people will notice. I'd suggest you avoid it completely unless you're 100% certain you're using it correctly (if you're never sure, just don't ever use it! :) Aug 15, 2014 at 13:59
  • Dangit - question closed just as I tried to post. Short answer: substitute male pronouns & match the endings. You would say: "The letter is for HIM." HIM ends in "m", so technically "WHOM" is correct. "WHOSE letter is this?" "It is HIS" (match the "s"). You would NOT say "The letter is for HE." That would be incorrect, and has no "m" so "WHO" is also technically incorrect. That said, few people these days would say "for WHOM is the letter meant?" It's too proper & stuffy. Most would ask "who is the letter for?" This is technically incorrect, but far more common.
    – mc01
    Aug 15, 2014 at 17:57
  • @mc01 If you check your friendly neighborhood reference grammar, I'm afraid you'll find that's not how it works at all.
    – user230
    Aug 19, 2014 at 9:17
  • It's just a sort of mnemonic that works fine without having to delve into the underlying mess of object & subject pronouns, cases, etc. Any example where my suggestion is wrong?
    – mc01
    Aug 19, 2014 at 15:26

3 Answers 3


'Who is it meant for ?' is incorrect, both because of the mix up between direct object and subject and also because of the preposition at the end of the sentence.

Whereas most English speakers have lazily slipped into commonly putting prepositions at the end of sentences, it looks and sounds sloppy in the written form.

The correct versions would be 'For whom is it meant'.

Who is used when referring to the subject of the sentence and whom when referring to the direct object.


The man who stole my wallet is in jail. The man whom the dog bit is in hospital.


When "who" is the object of a preposition it should be replace with "whom". Both of your sentences are correct.

  1. For whom is it meant? (Correct)

  2. Who is it meant for? (Correct)

  3. For who is it meant? (Incorrect)


In strict registers, WHO acting as the object of a verb or a preposition is always cast in the objective case, whom. If you rewrite the clause without ‘pied-piping’—with the preposition for ‘stranded’ at the and—whom is still called for in formal writing:

Angela was curious about the unopened letter on the table and wondered whom it was meant for?

There is thus no error in the sentence as originally written.

Spontaneous colloquial speech, however, is less demanding; objective whom is rare in conversation (unless the speaker is working from a prepared text or is deeply experienced in the strict style), and almost never occurs at the head of a clause. Consequently, when you introduce the clause as direct quotation this properly reflects colloquial usage, not formal.