I’ve been looking for a mechanic who/whom fixes Hondas.
Question: Should you use who or whom in this sentence?
Answer: That depends on whether you’re referring to a person (or group of people) in the subject or object position in the sentence.
Or think of it this way: When you use the word who or whom in a sentence, you are referring to a person (or group of people). Well, if the person to whom you are referring in the sentence can also be referred to with one of the words in column A below—subject pronouns—then who is the right word to use. If the person to whom you’re referring can be referred to with one of the words in column B below—object pronouns—then whom is the correct word to use.
Column A (subject pronouns) Column B (object pronouns)
Here’s another way of thinking about it: When you arrive at a point in a sentence where you are considering using who or whom, ask yourself this question: Am I referring to a word in column A or column B. Here’s an example:
◊ She is the one who/whom we will nominate.
Will we nominate she or her? We will nominate her, right? Her, as the lists above indicate, calls for whom. Her is an object pronoun because in this sentence an action is being carried out by others — We — toward her. Subjects do the acting in a sentence; objects are acted upon.
Let’s go back to our earlier example:
◊ I’ve been looking for a mechanic who/whom fixes Hondas.
Which word is correct here, who or whom? Who, right? Why? Because he or she or they fixes Hondas, not him or her or them fixes Hondas. He, she, and they are subject pronouns because, along with I, they are also doing something. Different parts of a sentence can have their own subjects. These structures with their own subjects are sometimes referred to as clauses.
Test your knowledge of who vs. whom with these examples (answers below):
1. Pamela is the critic who/whom writes all the movie reviews.
2. They are the committee members who/whom you should contact for funding ideas.
3. Mark is the lawyer who/whom handles all the divorce cases.
Answers: 1. Who (She writes the reviews.) 2. Whom (You should contact them.) 3. Who (He handles the divorces.)