Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Whose whom is whose? (or is it who?)

The easiest way, for me, to help students remember who, whom and whose is to outline the differences on a chart. I tell them that Who,Whom, and Whose each have a matching pronoun.

Who is used in cases where the answer is He, She, or They.
Ke$ha, who spells her name with a dollar sign, sings songs. Who sings songs? SHE sings songs!

Katy Perry, who kissed a girl, had Ke$ha in her music video. Who kissed a girl? SHE kissed a girl!

Whom is used where the answer is Him, Her, or Them.
This is easy to remember because the m in whom matched the m in Him and Them (females as usual complicate things).

Ke$ha, whom is loved by many, sings songs.
Whom do they love? Many love HER!

Whose is used for the answer His, Hers or Theirs.
This is easy to remember because of the S in whose and his, hers and theirs.

Ke$ha, whose song “Boots and Boys” is my favorite, sings songs.
Whose song is it? The song is HERS.

Katy Perry, whose music videos are popular, had Ke$ha in her music video.
Whose music videos are popular? HERS are popular.

So that's what I find the easiest way to remember when to use what. However, some students work better if they know the rules.

WHO is used when the person is the subject of the verb. The person is doing the action.
Ke$ha, who dances, loves boots and boys. (SHE dances)
Ke$ha, who is crazy, loves boots and boys. (SHE is crazy)
Ke$ha, who rocks, loves boots and boys. (SHE rocks)
Ke$ha, who parties hard, loves boots and boys. (SHE parties hard)
Ke$ha,who doesn't like James VanDerBeek loves boots and boys. (SHE doesn't like James)
In all of those cases Ke$ha is the subject.

WHOM is used with the person is the object. They are receiving the action.
Ke$ha, whom I love, loves boots and boys. (I love HER. She doesn't love me)
Ke$ha, whom James VanDerBeek fights, loves boots and boys. (James VanDerBeek fights HER. We don't know yet if she fights him back.)
Ke$ha, whom my neighbors found drunk in their bathtub, loves boots and boys. (My neighbors found HER. Ke$ha didn't find them.)
Ke$ha,whom my priest never listens to, loves boots and boys. (My priest never listens to HER. We don't know if she listens to the priest.)

WHOSE is used to show possession.
Ke$ha, whose teeth wish she would stop using booze to brush them, loves boots and boys. (The teeth are HERS)
Ke$ha, whose album sold more than mine, loves boots and boys. (The album that's HERS sold more)
Ke$ha, whose love of singing shows, loves boots and boys. (The love of singing is HERS)
Ke$ha, whose mother was a singer, loves boots and boys. (The mother is HERS)
Ke$ha,whose outfits in music videos are always fun, loves boots and boys. (The outfits are HERS)

One last thing.

Who and Whom are only used for people...with a few exceptions. Depending on your love for animals many people use who(m) for pets. I have seen some people take this so far as to use it for all animals, but usually that isn't the case.

Rarely, for poetic license, countries or cities will use who or whom.

So that's it. Now you know all there is about who, whose and whom. The only thing left is to review the difference between defining and non-defining clauses (check out which vs that for more on those).

What activities can be done to review these with a class? One that works well is to find a brief news article and have students combine the sentences. This also lends itself easily to flyswatter (just write the relative pronouns on the board). It would work better if you could use a smartboard or similar so you could have the words move every turn (since there are so few). 

What activities do you use to have students practice who, whom and whose? 

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