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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, December 7, 2018

End Times for Whom

"Mama, I'm confused. Should I be saying "whom" instead?"

I have been saying for quite some time that "whom" is in its death throes. English is so constructed now that the syntax rather than the pronoun form tells us whether we are talking about a subject or an object. We don't have different endings on nouns for different grammatical cases like we had in Anglo-Saxon. 

That's why we can also function quite well with only "you" as a subject and object pronoun though, up until the 17th century we distinguished between "thou" / "ye" (subject) and "thee"/ "you" (object). 

Back in the 16th and 17th century people must have been feeling that it was the End Times for "thou" and "ye", and I feel that there are definitely Signs and Portents that it is the End Times for "whom". I belong to an editors' group on facebook where often professional editors post questions revealing that they are quite incapable of figuring out whether "who" or "whom" is correct. I say this not as a criticism, but as evidence of the End Times. (The End Times are not a bad thing, by the way.)

Highly respected Baltimore Sun editor has noticed this too, and was moved to write this excellent blog post, before I could get around to it.

Read on!


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.