Source: The Conceptual Self in Context ... by Ulric Neisser, David A. Jopling DPhil (Oxon)

... The Western philosophical tradition provides a venerable partial answer to the question of who we are: What characterizes the essence of who we are is a locus of consciousness and rationality ...

[I already read this:] First, to know whether to use "who" or "whom," we need to talk about the difference between subjects and objects because you use "who" when you are referring to the subject of a clause and "whom" when you are referring to the object of a clause.

My guess: we is the subject. In this relative clause, the speaker represents we as another OBJECT. Since OBJECTS require 'whom', whom we are is right, and who we are is wrong.

Yet my guess jars with the following. So am I wrong?

[User 'RuthP' dated 2012 Dec 26:]
That is a(n incorrect) hyper-correctness, to which many people are prey. No, because the only verb you have is to be (are, in this case). To be cannot take an object, because it is an identity, so in your sentences, who and we are the same. Since we is the subject, so is who.

If apt, please see user 'leonAzul' 's comment, dated 2012 Dec 26 (also in this same thread).

  • 1
    My best advice is to forget about whom entirely. It's obsolescent.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 17:04
  • Who saw her? He did (subject). Whom did he see? He saw her (object). It's I know who I am and We know who we are, not We know whom we/us are. But Dan's advice is sound. Forget about whom and no-one except a few stick-in-the-mud pedants will criticise you. Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 17:35
  • 4
    Whom is alive and well in the formal written register that Law Area is so interested in. In particular, it survives directly following a preposition.
    – user230
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 17:56
  • Is he who he says he is? In classical grammar-speak, "is" wants a nominative complement, not a dative or an accusative form.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 19:35
  • What do you mean, "such sentences as above"? You gave no examples of actual usage, only the indtructional text, in which all the instances of "who" and "whom" were in quote marks, because they were being referred to AS WORDS, not being used in the syntax of the sentence. Did you have some other sentences in mind, that use "who" or "whom", when you wrote "in the sentences above"? Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 2:16

1 Answer 1


In formal English it is correct to employ the objective form whom when who represents the object of a verb.

In the technical language of grammar the term object designates either a) the complement of a preposition (a sense which is not in play here) or b) the complement of a verb which in some sense receives or suffers the action of the verb.

The verb BE, however, does not ascribe an action to the subject, but an identity or quality. There is no object with BE but a different sort of complement called a predicate complement. Because that complement is not an object it is not represented by whom but by who.

You must log in to answer this question.