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In this sentence "whom" is correct, but I think "who" is also correct. I need some grammatical explanation.

John was crying for who/whom he lost.

Context - John lost his best friend in an accident.

My explanation -

John was crying for [his friend]

John was crying for [him]

John was crying for [who he lost]

The clause "who/whom he lost" will come down to "him". That "for" before the clause "who/whom he lost" does not attached to "for whom".

Am I right?

  • The clause "who/whom he lost" will come down to "him". That "for" before the clause "who/whom he lost" does not attached to "for whom". Am I right? <== I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you are trying to say here. :( . . . In any case, your example would probably be unacceptable in today's English, as neither "who" nor "whom" would be acceptable there. Your example seems to be treating the "who/whom" as a pronoun for a fused-relative, but "who/whom" normally cannot be used for a fused-relative unless it is a "free choice" construction. – F.E. Sep 12 '14 at 2:14
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Let's review. What you are trying to express is:

John lost his friend. John was crying for his friend.

Of course, such repetition is undesirable, so English has a tool you can use, called a . Relative pronouns include who, whom, that, and which. Of those choices, who and whom can be used to refer to people. Who is used for subjects; whom is used for objects.

You probably know all that already, but just need advice in applying the rules.

The pronoun you want is the one in the objective case (whom), because John lost his friend. (Using the subjective case pronoun who would mean that the friend lost John, which is not what you want.)

Remember, also, that relative pronouns help you refer to a noun that would otherwise be repeated. Relative pronouns don't stand alone. The correct sentence should be:

John was crying for the friend whom he lost.


That said, even native English speakers often fail to distinguish between subjective and objective cases correctly. Therefore, you have to be careful about parroting patterns that you see and hear, as you may be copying incorrect examples. On the other hand, you are also unlikely to be stigmatized for choosing the wrong case in everyday speech.

  • John was crying for the friend whom he lost. This example is fine. But what about my sentence - John was crying for who/whom he lost.? Who or whom? or Both? – Man_From_India Sep 11 '14 at 5:53
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    John was crying for who he lost is incorrect. John was crying for whom he lost gets the case right, but is still incorrect, since the antecedent needs to be present. – 200_success Sep 11 '14 at 5:56
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Who is the subjective case. Use who when it replaces "I", "he", "she", etc.

Whom is the objective case. Use whom when it replaces "me", "him", "her", etc.

That said, in current American usage, anyway, many speakers use who for both the subjective and objective, and don't use whom at all.

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I consider that you are aware of the general rules specified here or at least have gone through them. This way, I won't mention subject/object thing in this answer. But will provide you with what I think.

It seems, over the period of time, the subtlety of who and whom is settling down. I have read and heard many natives using who where I thought whom fitted better. When asked, they said the same what I said in the beginning. For instance, "I wondered who she was talking to" goes okay without being noticed. However, using who/whom both is okay in some cases and not all. To whom it may concern cannot be To who it may concern.

Your example seems to be one of those cases wherein who/whom both looks fine. In my humble opinion, if the grammar rule you know does not help, use your instinct.

  • But in my sentence there comes "for whom" part, we can't say "for who" there. But I think in this particular sentence "for who" is fine because "for" is not part of the clause "who/whom he lost". Am I right? – Man_From_India Sep 11 '14 at 5:55
  • If you ask me, I'd certainly use whom because of the simple rule I learned - "John was crying for him". We use ..for who... in construction like.. Loving god for who he is. :) – Maulik V Sep 11 '14 at 7:10

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