Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Grammar question (I know MY answer :)

Okay, heard this on the news:

The governor is concerned with (whom or who) will be appointed to take her place.

Whom or who?

And what's your rationale?



Laura K. Curtis said...

Well, I have no idea whether it's *right*, but I'd say "who," because it's the subject of the phrase "will be appointed." (Granted, the whole phrase is the object of the preposition "with", but I still say it should be "who.")

Jean Wogaman said...

I agree with Laura.

Edittorrent said...

Laura, that's what I thought. Write the clause "who will be appointed", and that clause in its entirety is the object of the preposition "with". The word "who/whom" first and primary function is as subject of that clause, and only secondarily as the object, so the subjective case should be used-- who.

Do you think? Can an argument be made for "whom"?

You know, there's a weird little rule that says occasionally proximity controls. Unusual situation, but -- When you have a dual subject connected by "or", like "Either Joanie or her brothers", the closest noun to the verb controls whether the verb should be singular or plural-- Either Joanie or her brothers inherit the house. Now that's not exactly this situation, but if there's an argument to be made for "whom," it might be the same sort of proximity argument, that the ear needs to hear "whom" after a preposition.
I don't agree-- MY ear needs to hear a clause subject in subjective case! But maybe...?

Laura K. Curtis said...

Clause, that's the word, not phrase! I knew there was a word I was looking for, but it's been so long since I did grammar.... (You'd think, at this time of year, with Santa everywhere, I'd have remembered "clause.")

I never knew there was a "rule" about proximity. I knew it was what sounded right to me, but I could never have told you why that was the case, so thanks for the info!

Ian said...

Yanno (which ought to be a word if it isn't), saying "whom will" doesn't exactly roll trippingly off the tongue. The "mw" combination can only successfully be used by Miss Piggy when she's announcing kisses.

I'd use "who will" because it sounds better to me.

Edittorrent said...

Ian, that's what I say-- MY ear prefers WHO.

Whirlochre said...

Whom always sounds like a horrible drink made from eggs, and whatever the correct grammatical straightjacket for this word, I would only ever use it in its 'to whom' form. Or 'whomsoever' if I was at a masked ball.

In the example sentence, 'who' sounds right, especially as the m-w sound of 'whom will' is such a gobful.

Anonymous said...

Another thing to consider is which way would you rather err? Most people will forgive who for whom (assuming they even notice) because that's a mistake that many people make. Using whom for who, on the other hand, draws attention to the error. Whom is a rarely-used word (relative to who), so its use demands immediate scrutiny. To people who don't know better, the speaker/writer comes across as pretentious. Those who do know better will stop and take note that the author is wrong.

In this example, I think who is the right answer grammatically. Even if I wasn't sure, I'd still use who, in order to avoid drawing attention to my ignorance.

Edittorrent said...

"Whom always sounds like a horrible drink made from eggs, "

Whirl, I'm going to go Freudian here and point out that "whom" sounds like "womb", which connects with eggs. :)

Not sure what this means, but it's interesting.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert with grammar, and wil go with "who" in your question, but can only back it up with the trick to change the wording to he/she/they and him/her/them to figure it out.

But I'd like to say that occasionally I hear someone saying "whom" when it seems like they should have said "who"; they sound like they're trying and failing to sound educated, like when American writers use "amongst" for "among", and "whilst" for "while". To me, they sound like pretentious, snob wannabes.

Anonymous said...

I vote for "who" as the subject of the clause. The whole clause is the object of the preposition. I once asked a linguist this same question and her response was to take a survey (she was a researcher). She also said most competent English speakers say "who."

I used to tell my students that the rule of thumb was when in doubt use "who" because no one will notice.