To Whom It May Concern

I think that when “whom” disappears, it will be the signal of the end of civilization. Of course, by my standards, civilization started easing on down the road when people decided it was okay not to get dressed up for concerts and theater. But I digress.

The rules of who/whom are a little bit tricky—sometimes I have to think for a moment before being certain—but that little “who” running around naked just grates on my ear, and I want to clothe it in a decent inflection. Needless to say, it helps to have studied Latin.

It’s always who when it’s the subject of a sentence:

  • Who ate the last piece of pizza?
  • Who left the water running?
  • Who is that person in my seat?

It takes a turn for the complex when homophones are thrown into the mix:

  • Who’s calling?
  • Whose brilliant idea is this?

With a preposition, use the inflected form (whom):

  • With whom are you sitting?
  • To whom is this addressed?
  • The argument is between whom?
  • From whom is this package?

And then it starts to get ugly. Check back tomorrow.

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