She is not a person who you can count on.


She is not a person whom you can count on.

Which one is correct and sounds more native ? Please give an explanation for your answer


It is "whom" when used as the object of the sentence, and "who" when used as the subject.

Since the person you are counting on is the object of the sentence, "whom" is technically correct.

However, very few native speakers would say "whom" in normal speech, since few native English speakers understand when to use it.

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    "Whom" is technically the correct word to use in your example sentence, but very few native English speakers would actually say that because very few native English speakers understand when to use "whom". You will probably not be corrected if you said "who". – Gabriel Luci Mar 29 '16 at 17:30
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    What do you mean who/whom is an exception? It is the same principle as I/me. Would you say that "is it for I?" is an exception? Are you referring to the fact that they sound/are spelled similarly? – Daniel Mar 29 '16 at 20:35
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    @Dopapp, I think the difference is that I/me, she/her, he/him sound very different from each other, whereas who/whom are so similar that even when someone says it wrong it is easy not to notice. I suspect that over time native speakers have learned to just not care very much which one they use in casual speech. – Kevin Wells Mar 29 '16 at 21:48
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    In my experience (US midwest native speaker), "whom" is basically never used except in the phrase "to whom" - "to who" is never correct. @JavaLatte shows how the construction can be avoided in most cases. – Mario Carneiro Mar 29 '16 at 23:34
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    Native speakers do understand intuitively when to use it. It's your description that's wrong, not the way we talk. – snailplane Mar 30 '16 at 14:44

"Who/whom" is a relative pronoun- it "relates" the second clause to the first clause, and acts as either subject (who) or object (whom) in the second clause. Look at these two sentences, and see what the second clause looks like on its own:

She is a person who gets things done

she gets things done - subject

She is not a person whom you can count on

You cannot count on her - object

English speakers usually avoid this issue altogether. There are two ways that you can do this:

She is not a person that you can count on

that is also a relative pronoun, but it does not change depending on whether it's a subject or object

She is not a person you can count on

You can often omit the relative pronoun: in this case it is allowed. You will find the rules here.

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In this case, "who/whom" is the object of the preposition "on", so you should use the objective case of whom. If you were speaking very formally, you might say

She is not a person on whom you can count.

That is probably how you would hear it on Downton Abbey, and there are people that tell you never to end a sentence with a preposition, but it happens all the time in spoken language. In American English, I think you are more likely to hear it said as you had it in your first example (technically incorrect, but much more common)

She is not a person who you can count on.

Or, as @JavaLatte suggested, it would probably just be omitted entirely.

She is not a person you can count on.

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Think of it this way: you would say You can count on her, not You can count on she. That of course is because on is a preposition which is followed by its object, her. In your sentence, who/whom is still an object of on and therefore should take that form: whom. Actually, to be technically correct, that sentence should be written as She is not a person on whom you can count. Whenever you are wondering if you should use who or whom, you can usually say, Would I use he or him? Of course he translates to who and him translates to whom. Thus, I will follow him. would become I will follow whom? or Whom will I follow?

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