I am taking classes to improve my English. The instructor and I were going through 'Relative Clauses' this morning, when this particular sentence came up.

We met the students who you taught English.

The instructor said that it was wrong to use 'Who'. He said that 'Whom' was the correct choice in standard English. The reason he gave was that 'Who' was subjective case and 'Whom' was objective case. I got this part but I saw another error in the sentence and said that a preposition 'To' must be added at the end of the sentence.

We met the students whom you taught English to.

The teacher said that it was not needed and was superflous because 'Whom' covered for the objective case.

But I think that I may be right. Please help me with this doubt.

  • 1
    James Thurber told the story of a man who was shown his wife's body in the morgue and said "It's her". The newspaper editor corrected the grammar to "it is she". If the man had actually said "it is she", the police might have wondered why he was so composed: had he already known that his wife was on the slab because he'd killed her? Aug 14, 2022 at 23:06
  • @SimonCrase I read somewhere that 'It is I' goes to the extremity of pedantic behaviour. But, here in India, even prestigious tests that one takes to become a top dog in the government, consider sentences like 'It is her' and 'It is me' wrong.
    – Ashutosh
    Aug 15, 2022 at 0:15
  • 1
    English is a family of dialects. Sometimes it is possible to find out which part of a city a speaker comes from by listening. Someone who grew up in the Bronx has a different accent from Queens, even though both are from New York. One function of English is to distinguish in group and out group. Indian English is a family of dialects: my Bengali friends speak English differently from South Indian friends. Presumably the exams are based on a "top dog" dialect. BTW, I would never say "is is me", as "it's me" sounds more natural (in my dialect). Aug 15, 2022 at 0:58
  • 2
    You can say "to whom you taught English". Ending clauses with prepositions is common but, in this case, avoidable.
    – John Douma
    Aug 15, 2022 at 2:52
  • 1
    I avoid using a preposition at the end of a sentence whenever possible. Winston Churchill once quipped "that is non-sense up with which I shall not put". To his point, sometimes it is awkward to follow that rule. For example, "where do you come from?" sounds better to me than "from where do you come?".
    – John Douma
    Aug 15, 2022 at 7:43

1 Answer 1


First, the “who/whom” distinction has just about disappeared in spoken American English except among very careful users. (I do not know about British English.)

Second, let’s start with direct and indirect objects. For verbs that can take a direct and indirect object, there are two equally grammatical ways to go.

I taught English to him


I taught him English

If the indirect object follows the verb and precedes the direct object, there is no preposition preceding the indirect object. If the direct object follows the verb and precedes the indirect object, the indirect object is preceded by “to” or “for.”

Third, in modern English, the objective case is used for direct and indirect objects of verbs and for objects of prepositions. If, as I do, you retain the “who/whom” distinction, “who” is used only for a clause’s subject, and “whom” is used for all three objective uses. All three of the formations below are grammatically correct, and I give them in my personal order of preference. My most preferred is

to whom I taught English.

I like that because it immediately makes clear that “whom” is the indirect object. Of the following, I prefer

whom I taught English to.

I find that acceptable because the final “to” eventually makes clear that “whom” is an indirect object, but there is a delay that makes my thought somewhat hard to grasp immediately.

whom I taught English

is correct, but I do not like it because the listener or reader is given the least information on how to parse “whom.”

These are subtle points on which good users of English may disagree.

  • 3
    It's similar in British English: the use of 'who' as object is commonplace, and 'whom' can sound overly correct. Aug 14, 2022 at 16:10
  • 2
    I'm with Jeff that both versions are idiomatic; the final to is optional. It makes no difference to the meaning. As your teacher said, it is not required. My preference is to omit it but, as Jeff makes clear, this is a matter of taste. Other verbs would require the preposition. ....whom I spoke/talked to, conversed/argued with. Aug 14, 2022 at 16:15
  • @Jeff Correct me if you find an error in my reasoning. 'Whom' is a pronoun which refers to 'Students' in the sentence. Because the noun 'Students' would have taken a 'to' because it is an indirect object. Like, "You taught English to the Students." So "Whom" must also take the preposition "to". But the place of preposition confuses me, Is "To whom" more correct than "Whom you taught English to." and Why?
    – Ashutosh
    Aug 15, 2022 at 0:26
  • @Ashutosh Yes, “whom” does refer to “students,” which is indeed an indirect object. No, there are two correct ways to indicate an indirect object (as I explain in my answer), and one of those does not require “to.” With a relative clause, the normal word order is impossible. You can omit “to” or retain it and put it before the indirect object or retain it and put it after the direct object. All three are grammatical. Aug 15, 2022 at 1:14
  • @Jeff So, My sentence which puts 'To' at last is perfectly grammatical or not? I won't offend a grammar snob, will I?
    – Ashutosh
    Aug 15, 2022 at 1:30

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