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The sentence is from The Economist.

Original sentence

But they cannot agree on who that should be.

My question

Would it be whom, if the sentence only were: "But they cannot agree on whom."?

I'm fully aware of the who/whom rules regarding prepostions. Is this a special case because "who" belongs to "who that should be"?

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    In principle it should probably be whom (on the grounds that a possible resolution is It should be him, not he). But whom is hopelessly old-fashioned today (except after to, in To whom am I speaking? on the phone - but we often avoid that one by asking Who am I speaking to?, so it doesn't come immediately after the preposition). So just go with who and forget about the who / whom distinction, same as most native speakers. Jan 30, 2023 at 14:01
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    ...note that if you remove that should be you could make a case for either who or whom. That's because what you're left with might occur in a context like They cannot agree on who should do it (where a possible resolution is He should do it, not Him). Jan 30, 2023 at 14:10
  • @FumbleFingers - okay, my thanks. I have asked this question because I, as you have said, thought that it possibly should be "whom" in the original sentence. But I didn't dare to ask. I mean, it is The Economist. You get me.
    – JoHKa
    Jan 30, 2023 at 14:48
  • There are several instances of agree on who that should be in Google Books, but there;s only one instance of agree on whom that should be. Feasibly some benighted test-setter might still be looking for whom in a TEFL test, but actual native speakers left this one behind decades ago. Except when it follows immediately after preposition to, in which case possibly most of us still use whom (or rephrase! :) Jan 30, 2023 at 15:05
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    One might be a little more tolerant of whom, as in from whom did you get it (comes naturally to me) but I'm probably a bit older than fumblefingers and likely to be categorised as hopelessly old fashioned. Jan 30, 2023 at 15:10

1 Answer 1

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In principle the text should probably use whom (on the grounds that a possible resolution is It should be him, not he).

But whom is hopelessly old-fashioned today (except after to, in To whom am I speaking? on the phone - but we often avoid that one by asking Who am I speaking to?, so it doesn't come immediately after the preposition).

So the easy answer is just go with who and forget about the who / whom distinction, same as most native speakers (different morphology for verb subject and object is primarily a feature of Latin, not English).

As commented, some people are happy with (or prefer) From whom did you get it? Which is again a context where the immediately preceding term is a preposition - unless we rephrase to put it at the end, as Who did you get it from?

It may be worth noting that OP's cited example features a very "weak" preposition on. I say "weak" because we can easily just remove it entirely without affecting anything else (except that if there's no preposition at all before who / whom, we're much more likely to use the modern simpler style.

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