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A Helpful Way to Determine When Not to Use “Whom”

In another blog post we looked at the phrase “Whom shall I say is calling?” and learned that such use of whom is incorrect. The trick to knowing whether to use whom or who in these instances is to remove the subject-verb combination that immediately follows the pronoun. Don’t say “huh?” Let me show you.

With that famous phase, when you delete those words I mentioned (“shall I say”), you would get this:

  • “Whom is calling?”

You can always replace whom with him (object) or who with he (subject) to check if you are correct. Saying “him is calling” is not correct.

Watch what happens when I take out the subject-verb words in these sentences:

  • The police have captured the man whom they think robbed the bank.
  • The client hired the accountant whom she remembered was helpful.
  • He didn’t want to invite the woman, whom his friend had said was a bore.

Clearly, whom is wrong in these instances. That’s because the pronoun (whom) connects to the action of that person (robbed, not think, in the first example), not the action of the subject of the sentence (I tried to explain this in as simple a way as I can here, without getting too grammar techy). “The man … robbed the bank.” In other words, “He” robbed the bank (subject), not “him.”

What helps me in these cases is to group those words together in my head:

  • The man who robbed the bank.
  • The accountant who was helpful.
  • The woman who was a bore.

I hope this helps you understand whom better. I’ve been studying the advice of the grammar instructors who I feel know what they are talking about!


I’d Like Some Time, Anytime

Writers often confuse the words anytime and any time. As is the case with anyone and any one, you need to pay attention to what you mean to say. Anytime means “at any time whenever.” But you would use any time when you are talking about the noun time.

The same problems crop up with sometime (adverb or adjective) and some time. As with any time, you would use some time when you are speaking about the noun time. The following are correctly written:

  • I’d like to go to the beach sometime.
  • Sometime last night the burglar broke into my house.
  • He’s a sometime father, only coming over when he feels like it.
  • I need some time to write.
  • It will take some time to get over her.
  • I don’t have any time left in my day.
  • You could see her anytime you like.

Although you might think the word anymore would follow the same rules,  it’s pretty much a toss-up in terms of usage choice. In recent decades it’s become common to use anymore pretty much anytime with anyone. So although it’s more common to write “I can’t eat any more ice cream,” you can write “I can’t eat anymore ice cream.” Although, I’d never write either, because I always find room for ice cream.

Negative, Continuous, and Passive Forms of Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood is one we often use without thinking. But often writers use it incorrectly in writing, so it is worthwhile to take a close look at this interesting “mood” we use all the time.  This structure is used not only for positive statements but also with negative, continuous, and passive constructs.

Negative Examples:

  • The boss insisted that John not be at the meeting.
  • The company asked that employees not accept personal phone calls during business hours.
  • I suggest that you not take the job without renegotiating the salary.

Passive Examples:

  • Matt recommended that Debbie be hired immediately.
  • Lee demanded that I be allowed to take part in the negotiations.
  • We suggested that you be admitted to the organization.

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