Few writers feel confident using whom. As a result, some writers have dropped whom and use who exclusively. Other writers overuse whom, figuring they’ll be right at least part of the time.
If you’re not sure, the first mistake is the way you want to go. Whom is rapidly disappearing, so it isn’t required for conversation and most writing tasks. I reserve whom for two situations: writing for publication and teaching a class.
English teachers (remember, I’m one of them) have to bear a lot of the blame for the gradual disappearance of whom. Ask an English teacher for an explanation of who and whom, and you’ll hear a lot of jargon about transitive verbs and objects of prepositions. Not surprisingly, many people simply give up.
Since you’re reading this post, you’re a special person who would like to crack the mystery of who and whom. Let me show you a trick.
Memorize this phrase: He for who and him for whom. (You can sing it if you know the song “Tea for Two”!)
Any time you’re wondering whether whom is correct, plug in the word him and see if it works. (Both words end in the mmm sound – another aid.)
Give the package to anyone who/whom answers the door.
Would you say him answers the door or he answers the door? He answers it! Use who. (You’re singing, right? He for who and him for whom.)
Give the package to anyone who answers the door.
The same trick works for whoever (use he) and whomever (use him). (That mmm sound is still there in whomever and him to help you.) Incidentally, mistakes with whomever are common even with highly educated people.
Let’s try one:
The invitation is good for whoever/whomever wants to attend.
Which works better: him wants to attend or he wants to attend? He wants to attend! Use whoever:
The invitation is good for whoever wants to attend.
Let’s do one more, ok?
This shirt will look good on whoever/whomever it fits.
It fits him or it fits he? It fits him! Use whomever:
This shirt will look good on whomever it fits.
If you stayed with me for all these examples, congratulations! You’ve learned a usage skill that eludes even some professional writers.