Authors.com

Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

When I was in college, I worked behind the front desk of a major hotel. Directly across the lobby was the hotel bar, a small, dark lounge with the bar counter on the opposite side and a stage at one end. George Thorogood, when he stayed at the hotel, would sit at the far end of the counter, next to the stage. 

Connie, the bartender, once told me that her job was to keep people away from George, but I never once saw her have to do this. George Thorogood would nurse his drink in silence. That’s when I started listening to his music and became a fan. 

My favorite song by George Thorogood is “Move It On Over,” and my second favorite song is “Who Do You Love?” This order would be reversed except for one thing: bad grammar in his song title. To be grammatically correct, “Who Do You Love?” should be “Whom Do You Love?”

Why Whom? 

Many people are confused by “whom.” What does “whom” mean? When do you use “whom”? These are easy questions to answer if you know about objects and object pronouns. 

An object in a sentence is either (1) the referent for a preposition or (2) the recipient of an action. Let’s look at these in order. 

Referent for a preposition: Take any preposition (e.g., “to,” “for,” “under,” “beside,” “within”). Say the preposition and ask “what?” The answer will be the object of the preposition, the word to which the preposition refers, i.e., the referent. Let’s try a few. 

  • “Above the table.” Above what? The table. Thus, “table” is the object of the preposition “above.”
  • “Around the corner.” Around what? The corner. Thus, “corner” is the object of the preposition.
  • “Below the belt.” Below what? The belt. Thus, “belt” is the object of the preposition.
  • “Next to the ugly dog.” Next to what? The ugly dog. Thus, “ugly dog” is the object of the preposition.
  • “From Susan.” From what (or whom)? Susan. Thus, “Susan” is the object of the preposition. 

Recipient of an action: Many actions are performed on something else. We call these verbs “transitive verbs” (e.g., “read,” “drive,” “eat,” “deliver”). Say the verb and then ask “what?” The answer will be the direct object of the verb. This direct object will be the recipient of the action, the thing being acted on. Let’s try a few. 

  • “Bake the cake.” Bake what? The cake. Thus, “cake” is the direct object of “bake.”
  • “Sing a song.” Sing what? A song. Thus, “song” is the direct object of “sing.”
  • “Eat a pizza.” Eat what? A pizza. Thus, “pizza is the direct object of “eat.”
  • “Put on smelly clothes.” Put on what? Smelly clothes. Thus, “smelly clothes” is the direct object of “put on.”
  • “Forget John.” Forget what (or whom)? John. Thus, “John” is the direct object of “forget.” 

Now that we can find the objects in sentences, we can replace those objects with pronouns. To do this correctly, we need to use object pronouns. Only object pronouns can be used as objects in sentences. 

Object pronouns: “me,” “you,” “him,” “her,” “it,” “whom,” “us,” “them.” Let’s try a few of these, using the samples above. 

  • “Above the table.” Replace “table” with “it” to get “Above it.”
  • “From Susan.” Replace “Susan” with “her” to get “From her.”
  • “Put on smelly clothes.” Replace “smelly clothes” with “them” to get “Put on them” (or, more commonly, “Put them on.”)
  • “Forget John.” Replace “John” with “him” to get “Forget him.” 

Whom Do You Love? 

With an understanding of objects and the list of object pronouns, we can, finally, understand why “Who Do You Love?” should be “Whom do you love?” Let’s see what “Who” is doing in this sentence. 

The verb here is “love,” or, more completely, “do love.” This is an action being done to something else. It is being used as a transitive verb, so it needs an object. In short, the action of loving is being done to “who,” and that’s the grammatical problem. “Who” is not an object pronoun! 

Look at that list of object pronouns again. We don’t find “who.” Instead, we see that “whom” is the object pronoun. This song title needs an object pronoun, so it needs the word “whom.” To be grammatically correct, this song title should be written “Whom Do You Love?” 

The Easy Way 

I have an easy strategy for figuring out when to use “whom” instead of “who.” The pronoun “who” can only be used as the subject of the verb. For example, in “Who wants more cake?” “who” is the subject of the verb “wants.” If the pronoun isn’t being used as the subject of a verb, you can’t use “who.” Use “whom.” 

Subject = “who”
Non-subject = “whom” 

Yes, using “whom” sounds funny in this song title, but it is correct. I’ll give Thorogood a pass on this error, though. If, as the lyrics say, he has a cobra necktie and a chimney made from a human skull, using perfectly grammatical language may be, well, out of character. And it’s still a really great song.

Views: 39

Comment by Del Huntsman on January 14, 2012 at 1:19am

Wow! I really enjoyed this. I need to go over it a couple more times to cement the lesson, but I'll make sure I do.

I really enjoyed this. Enjoyed what? This. "This" is the direct object of the verb (enjoyed).

I need to go over it...  Go over what? It.  "It" is the direct object of the verb (go over).

...cement the lesson. Cement what? The lesson. "Lesson" is the direct object of the verb (cement).

but I'll make sure I do. Do what? Make sure. I (or 'I do') is the object of the verb (make sure).

Question: Can a verb consist of two words?

I don't feel totally confident I got that right.

Comment by David Bowman on January 14, 2012 at 1:45am

I'm pleased that you found this useful! This is one of those topics that English teachers tend to make too complicated, so it's no wonder so many people get confused.

 

Correct: I really enjoyed this. Enjoyed what? This. "This" is the direct object of the verb (enjoyed).

Correct: I need to go over it...  Go over what? It.  "It" is the direct object of the verb (go over).

Correct: ...cement the lesson. Cement what? The lesson. "Lesson" is the direct object of the verb (cement).

Correct: but I'll make sure I do. Do what? Make sure. I (or 'I do') is the object of the verb (make sure). // Here, "I do" is actually the short form of "that I do." The word "that" turns the following phrase into a noun phrase so it can be used as the object.

 

Re: two-word verbs:

Generally, what you have is a verb plus an adverb. Together, they describe a single action. Example: "I will LOOK UP the number." Verb: look. Adverb: up. Together, they describe the action of searching for some information or seeking something.

Once you have the concepts of objects nailed down, you'll never again mistake "who" and "whom"!

Comment by Del Huntsman on January 14, 2012 at 6:15am

I appreciate the help. Now that you mention it, I do have a tendency to leave out "that" on occasion. In this case would the word "that" be considered a pro-noun?

Comment by David Bowman on January 14, 2012 at 4:52pm

Del: I"m glad you found the help...um....helpful.

 

"That" can be left out in many cases without damaging clarity. My recommendation is to leave it out if you're sure the reader will understand the message.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "pro-noun," but what "that" often does is transform a phrase into a single noun so it can be used as an object, as in your example above.

Comment by Del Huntsman on January 14, 2012 at 6:31pm

In the sentence above:

"I need to go over it a couple more times to cement the lesson, but I'll make sure I do."

I think I made a mistake in my example:

but I'll make sure I do. Do what? Make sure. I (or 'I do') is the object of the verb (make sure).

Actually, the answer to the question "Do what?" in this case is not "make sure", isn't the correct answer "go over it", since that is the noun or object being referenced at the beginning of the sentence?

Comment by Del Huntsman on January 14, 2012 at 6:33pm

Sorry if I seem slow, but I'd really like to be able to take apart or construct a sentence and know exactly what the pieces are.

Comment by Del Huntsman on January 14, 2012 at 6:35pm

Crap, did I just end a sentence with a preposition? You may have your work cut out for you with me, my friend.

Comment by David Bowman on January 14, 2012 at 6:57pm

I (subject) make (verb) sure (adverb) ...

and the full object, with all the implied words in place is... "that I do go over it a couple more times to cement the lesson."

 

Elliptical sentences (sentences with implied words left out) can be tricky. When you parse the sentence, add the punctuation, etc., you need to consider ALL the words of the sentence, even if they are implied.

 

And, no, you didn't end with a preposition. "Are" is a verb.

Comment by Del Huntsman on January 23, 2012 at 6:37am

Well, you can see I need some help when it comes to this. Can you do me a favor, and deconstruct a sentence for me. I'm trying to figure out "affect" and "effect".

The sentence is:

The way he made his exit had a profound "affect or effect" on me.

It's my understand that affect is used as a verb and effect is used as a noun except in rare circumstances. My questions are: In the sentence above, would I use affect or effect? (I assumed it is being used as a verb in this case) And: what is the grammatical breakdown of this sentence, i.e., noun, adverb, verb etc. ?

Thanks David.

Comment by Del Huntsman on January 23, 2012 at 7:25am

I'm going to take a shot:

"The way" are modifiers, "he" is the subject, "made" is a verb, "his" is a possessive pronoun, "exit" is a noun, "had" is a verb, "a profound" are modifiers, "affect" is a verb, "on" is a preposition, "me" is the subject.

Boy, I'm certain on about half of that result. Please don't beat me up too badly.

Comment

You need to be a member of Authors.com to add comments!

Join Authors.com

© 2018   Created by Authors.com.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service