Sunday, June 24, 2012

Your chance to be grammar queen/king!

You are not who/whom I wanted to see.

Who or whom, and why?

And what would you substitute to get rid of the question altogether?
Alicia

18 comments:

Kiolia said...

Hmm! I think "who" must be right (or ... more right?), but only because "whom" strikes my ear as incorrect. Whom would work in a construction like "...the one [or man/woman/etc.] whom...", though. In dialog, I'd leave it at "who", since I don't think the entire sentence would work in the mouth of someone who'd use "whom" correctly. Or, more likely, I'd dump it in favor of some more specific noun.

Chihuahua Zero said...

"I didn't want to see you?"

Iola said...

"You are not the person I wanted to see."

I'm a strong believer in rewriting the sentence to avoid getting the grammar wrong!

Joe Iriarte said...

You are not who I wanted to see.

Because "are" is a linking verb, and so a noun following it is not an object of a verb. (EG: "It is I," not "It is me.") "Whom" is an object pronoun.

Alternative: "I wanted to see somebody else."

::crosses fingers::

Joe Iriarte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

"You are not the droids I am looking for."

"Who the heck are you, and where's the guy I'm looking for?"

Seriously, though, I flip-flopped about a dozen times trying to figure out if the word in question was part of the subject or the object of this wonky sentence. After thinking about it for far too long, I'd rewrite the whole sentence for clarity's sake!

I'd rather write: You are not the pronoun I wanted to see.

R. Lynn Wilson said...

I believe "who" is the correct pronoun as it is functioning as the subject complement of "you."

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Probably ten years ago now, an editor friend told me to stop using whom altogether. He's British. I listened. I think of whom as being a British thing, probably incorrectly. I just spent a week in the woods with a Brit. I don't think he used whom once. It could have been the setting, though.

Like others have done, it's easiest to replace who/whom with something like "You are not the person I wanted to see."

krystalclaxton said...

I would use who. I don't know if that's correct or not, but the line appears to be dialog. Unless the speaker is a grammarian they would probably say who.

I understand this answer doesn't qualify me for the position of Grammar Monarch.

Kathrine Roid said...

You are not who I wanted to see.

If I was concerned about the grammar rule, I'd look up this one. But I'm not. If "whom" is correct, then the sentence rings ajar.

It is a tilt, a place that will pull the reader from the narrative.

This stands whether this is a line of dialogue (in which case Krystal Claxton is also correct) or not.

Incidentally, if I were writing the dialogue of someone who had perfect English, I would learn the applicable grammar rule because this character would occasionally speak in a jarring manner.

Abby Annis said...

I agree that whom sounds awkward, but if I've broken down the sentence correctly, "you" is the object, so "whom" is correct.

You are not whom I wanted to see.

To eliminate the question, I'd be more specific or rewrite the sentence.

You are not the manager I wanted to see.

I wanted to see someone else.

I don't want to see you. Go away. ;)

Katie said...

I think it's "whom," but I am very uncertain about it. I'd write "You aren't the one I wanted to see" instead. And as someone else pointed out already, it looks like dialogue, and in that case I would probably just put "who" because that sounds like more natural dialogue.

Leona said...

This is why we love this blog... but I have no idea of the right answer. (could look it up in my book, but I LOVE the discussion going on here :) I would re-structure the sentence. Yes. Then I would find the grammar rule, read it until my eyes glazed over, then hope for Alicia or Theresa to bring it up so I had a chance of understanding it :)

Or, if I desperately needed to know, I'd go look in the archives under their grammar bits. If you think I'm kidding...

Nonna said...

Whom is correct because whom is in the objective case. As in "I wanted to see "him", not "he." Whom is the object of the infinitive verb. You would not say "He came to see I."

A lot of ways to do away with this awkwardness have already been posted. You could simply say "You are not the one I wanted to see." Or "I wanted to see someone else, not you." Or many variations.

Edittorrent said...

It is objective ("whom" is the object of the relative clause, not the main clause, btw), but I'm with you guys-- let's just rewrite it and avoid the weird clanging noise that says it sounds wrong.

"You're not the one I wanted to see."?
Alicia

Tami Veldura said...

I like all the very technical reasons for 'whom.'

Whom is correct but here's an easy way to test it:

Replace who/whom with he/him (may require some rewording of the sentence). If he fits, it's who. If him fits, it's whom. Him and whom both end in m.

So, 'I didn't want to see him.'

Therefore:

You are not whom I wanted to see.

Natalie said...

Keeping the sentence with the correct "whom" would say volumes about what kind of person this character was.

I'd ope for simpler and less of a direct statement:

"Oh. It's you."

Adrian said...

There's something to be said for re-writing to avoid the question, but there's also something to be said for learning the rules so that you can confidently answer the question.

When I was a kid, I had trouble remembering the spelling of necessary, so I simply avoided it by writing unneeded instead. After a while, I realized that limiting myself wasn't always the best choice. I forced myself to memorize the correct spelling. Now I have two choices where I used to have just one.

Knowing whether it's who or whom gives you more freedom: you can make the sentence correct (for a highly educated character) or purposely incorrect (for a typical speaker) or you can rephrase it (which may often be the best answer).

This is a hard one, and I can't answer it with 100% confidence. I think I'm going to spend some time learning so I have all my options next time.