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(1) The man from whom I got the pen.

(2) The man from I got the pen.

(3) The man I got the pen from.

(4) The man whom I got the pen from.

Could you please show me if they are correct, if not would you correct me?

Many thanks

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  • (1) and (3) are correct. (2) makes no sense. (4) should use who in place of whom.
    – J.R.
    Nov 7, 2014 at 9:17
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    @J.R. - "from whom" is split apart in (4), that does not change "whom" to "who".
    – Kreiri
    Nov 7, 2014 at 9:27
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    @Kreiri - Grammatically, you're right. Nice catch. Conversationally, though, I think you'd hear it with "who" more than "whom", particularly with the preposition moved to the end. As an aside, I'm guessing we both agree that No. 4, in its current wording, is probably best avoided altogether :^)
    – J.R.
    Nov 7, 2014 at 9:29
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    @Kreiri No, but who is nonetheless a much better choice. If you're going to use whom, which marks your writing as rather formal in style, you should also pied-pipe from, as stranding prepositions is relatively informal; the clash between formal whom and informal stranding makes example (4) a poor choice as written.
    – user230
    Nov 7, 2014 at 9:51
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    Is #4 incorrect? You could tell us what you find here... @Araucaria - I think it's best to tell learners when some things they'll see all over are appropriate for more formal contexts, and when others aren't.
    – J.R.
    Nov 7, 2014 at 14:17

1 Answer 1

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(1) The man from whom I got the pen.

(2) The man from I got the pen.

(3) The man I got the pen from.

(4) The man who(m) I got the pen from.

Let's start with example (4) because it's the easiest to talk about:

  • (4) .... the man(i) [whom (i) I got the pen from ___ (i) ]

The man here is the antecedent for the word who(m). There is a gap at the end of the clause that represents a missing word after the preposition from. All three parts have the same index, they all refer to the same person. We could represent the relative clause like this:

  • the man [whom I got the pen from him ].

Here, the object of the preposition is the word who(m), but whom is at the beginning of the clause. The proposition from has been 'stranded' at the end of the sentence.

If we want to, we can put the whole preposition phrase at the beginning of the clause. This is what happens in example (1):

  • (1) ... the man [from whom I got the pen ___ ].

If we arrange the sentence like this, the preposition occurs in the normal position before its object whom. We can think about the clause like this:

  • ... the man [from whom I got the pen from him ].

Notice that we can only move the preposition so that it comes before its object. Otherwise it must stay in its normal position. In these relative clauses, I is the subject of the clause. Because the relative word who(m) is not the subject, we can drop it. We don't need to use a relative word at all:

  • (3) ... the man(i) [I got the pen from ____(i) ].

There is still a gap at the end of the sentence, where the object of from is missing. But there is no relative pronoun whom in this sentence. Notice that from must be at the end of the clause in its normal position. We cannot move it so that it comes before its object. This is because the object of the word from is missing! From here occurs before the gap where its object would be. We could represent the clause like this:

  • (3) ... the man [I got the pen from him ].

If we try to move from to a different position, the clause will be ungrammatical:

  • (2) *... the man(i) [from I got the pen ___(i) ] (wrong).

Here the word from doesn't appear before its real object - or the gap left from the missing object. If we try to reconstruct the missing parts we have the following representation:

  • (2) *... the man [from I got the pen him ] (wrong).

This is definitely not a good clause!

Hope this is helpful.

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