Polishing Your Prose, Part 9: This Versus That


Well, here I am again barely slipping in this month's polishing your prose post before the end of the month. Hopefully this series has taught you a thing or two about writing. We've only got 3 more left after this one! 

I've talked about words before on this blog, and this month I wanted to offer a few definitions that I see a lot of people get confused about. 

Who vs Whom

The best way to explain the difference is to show you a few examples: 
1.  a) Who is calling? b) Whom is calling? 
The correct answer is A. 

2.  a) Who are you taking to the dance? b) Whom are you taking to the dance?
The correct answer is B.

So what's the deal? How do you know which to use? There's just one simple thing to remember. This is how I always think about it: 

Who = he/she
Whom = him/her

Here's what you do: Let's use the first example: Who is calling? First, you need to answer the question: Who is calling? He is calling. She is calling.
Then, use the above scale. Who = he/she. So the correct word to use is: who. Who is calling?

Or how about example #2: Whom are you taking to the dance? Answer the question: I'm taking him or, I'm taking her.
Whom = him/her. Voila! 

It might sound a bit complicated and confusing, but as long as you know the substitution code, you'll know which word to use.

Now let's see if you can figure these three out: 
  • When you go to the concert, who/whom are you taking with you?
  • Who/whom are you talking about?
  • Who/whom is coming to dinner tonight?
Farther vs Further

I'm going to rat Jordan out. He switches these words up all the time. I try not to be that person about it, but sometimes I do correct him. I can't turn it off. But it's pretty simple really.

Farther refers to a physical distance. An actual, measurable distance. 
Example: Chicago is farther from Texas than Oklahoma City is.

Further refers to a distance you can't measure. 
Example: I don't want to discuss this further.

See? Now wasn't that easy?

P.S. Here are the answers to the who/whom questions: 
1: When you go to the concert, whom are you taking with you? I am taking him.
2: Whom are you talking about? I am talking about him.
3: Who is coming to dinner tonight? He is coming.

Anonymous said...

Given the title of the post, I hoped you were going to discuss which vs. that. I see "which" way too often, and it annoys me way more than people mixing up who/whom and farther/further. Maybe I was hoping you'd address it because I haven't found a good way to explain it myself and hoped you had one...


Amanda said...

Which/that was actually originally in the post, but it was late and I was tired, and I was having trouble explaining it, so I just took it out. Pretty lazy of me, right? I'm surprised you aren't annoyed by farther/further. It definitely annoys me. Who/whom doesn't annoy me, but I thought maybe someone would be interested to know how to figure it out in case they didn't know.