Ask A Linguist For October 1997 - December 1997
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Re: Whom

> From: Tomomi Nakashima <>

> When I learned English grammar, my teacher told us that we needed to
> use 'whom' in the particular situation.  Since I started studying in
> America, however, I have never heard 'whom' in the real conversation.
> Even some people looked at me with their strange face if I use 'whom'
> in the sentence.  Why do not people use 'whom' in the sentence, such
> as relative clause or interrogative sentences?  Or is that so old
> fashion for now?  I think that it is the correct usage in the
> priscriptive grammar.  I just want to know why people try to avoid
> using 'whom'.  Thank you.

	English used to have a much more developed case system, like
German, but by now very little of it is left. In modern English about the
only places we overtly mark objects as opposed to subjects are personal
pronouns, e.g. I/me, he/him, she/her, we/us, they/them. We used to
consistently use 'whom' as the object form of 'who', but eventually, like
many other examples of case marking, this became less and less common in
English. You still do hear it sometimes - some people use it because they
think it's more correct, or it really does sound better to them, and
sometimes it may be used with sarcasm or humor. In any case, you are right
when you call it 'old fashioned'. It has simply become nearly obsolete in
colloquial English, no matter what prescriptivists may say. 

					  Karen Steffen Chung		
					  National Taiwan University


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