Syntax: Subject-Pronoun Agreement (Who/Who’s/Whose/Whom)

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Who knows who’s the who’s who these days? And whose job is it to keep up with such matters? While we’re unsure of the answer to either of those questions, we do know who is on first.

Who/Whom:

  • Who: Who is a subject pronoun used to refer to the subject of a sentence or clause: “Who do you think you are?”
  • Whom: Whom is an object pronoun used when the pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition: “To whom is that letter addressed?”
    • Tip: Whom is often preceded by prepositions like “of,” “to,” “with,” “for,” and “in.”
  • Tip—Checking your work: You can check whether you selected the correct pronoun by rearranging the surrounding phrase and adding either she or her. If you would add she, then you need who. If you would add her, then you need whom.
    • Example: To who/whom was the letter addressed?
      • To who did her address the letter? (nonsense)
      • To whom did she address the letter? (correct)

Rule (who/whom): Use who to refer to the SUBJECT of a clause and whom to refer to the OBJECT of a clause.

Who’s/Whose:

  • Who’s: Who’s is a contraction of “who is” or “who has”: “Who’s going to bring the dessert to this weekend’s potluck?”
  • Whose: Whose is a possessive pronoun used to inquire into ownership or possession: “Whose Ford Focus is parked in front of the fire hydrant?”

Rule: If you need a CONTRACTION, use who’s; for POSSESSION, use whose.

So who’s ready for some practice problems?

1

1 / 5

1. Which rewrite of the underlined portion uses the correct punctuation and pronoun? The builder ultimately regretted its decision to hire Jerry Jones, who they acknowledge was a student, not a licensed architect, when he designed the earlier project.

2 / 5

2. In the next sentence, which of the underlined words or phrases, if any, has an error? From the perspective of the accused—who detectives eventually conceded had no other information, contrary to their suspicions at the time—the experience felt far different.

3 / 5

3. In the next sentence, which rewrite of the underlined phrase is correct? He is a person who supervisors believe has effected positive changes in his department.

4 / 5

4. In the next sentence, which of the underlined words or phrases, if any, has an error? Johnson ran as the heir of a man whom he did not particularly like and whose policies he had had, as Vice President, almost nothing to do with.

5 / 5

5. In the next sentence, which of the underlined words or phrases, if any, has an error? But when Congress makes a broad accommodation for all persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened, an agency is not free to offer a regulatory exemption only to a narrowly defined subset of such persons.

Your score is

 

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