which relative pronoun is correct?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by bamboo13, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. bamboo13 Junior Member

    Vietnamese
    You can borrow as many books as you like, provided you show them to ..................is at the desk
    A.Whoever B.who C.whom D.which
    I think we need a subject in the blank but the preposition "to" only stands before "whom or which". Give me the answer and explanation.Thank you very much!
     
  2. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    Whoever is correct because it is the subject of is.

    >>the preposition "to" only stands before "whom or which"

    Apparently not. It seems to depend on other factors.
     
  3. bamboo13 Junior Member

    Vietnamese
    Thank you very much gramman!
     
  4. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    The object of the preposition "to" is not the very next word, Bamboo. It's all the words that follow ("whoever is at the desk"), which constitute a clause. Within that clause, whoever is the right word; it's the subject of the verb is.
     
  5. bamboo13 Junior Member

    Vietnamese
    can I use "Who" instead of "whoever"? why should we use only "whoever" ?
     
  6. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    I'm going to guess that whoever is the correct choice because it is an indefinite relative pronoun. We want that because we don't know (or at least aren't saying) who is at the desk. Who is a definite relative pronoun.
     
  7. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    You can say "show them to the person who is at the desk," but not "show them to who is at the desk."
     
  8. Edinburgher Senior Member

    Scotland
    German/English bilingual
    It's unfortunate that "whomever" is not offered as an option. That would have been the correct answer. I feel that "whoever" is very much second-best.
     
  9. bamboo13 Junior Member

    Vietnamese
    Thanks all of you. I think gramman's explanation is very logical.
     
  10. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    No - the word for the blank is the subject of the verb "is" in that clause. Whomever is an object form and would be incorrect. Whoever is at the desk will be the recipient of the action. The noun clause itself is an object (of the preposition "to") but it contains a subject, verb and complement.
     
  11. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    Would agree with Edinburgher... The most grammatically correct response would be "to whomever is at the desk". I can't imagine anyone actually saying it, as we'd probably say "to the person at the desk".
     
  12. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The only way "whomever" would be correct is if there was no "is at the desk" following it. Then it would be the simple object of "to". However, it is the subject of the clause and needs to be the "who" form and not the "whom" form of the pronoun.
     
  13. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    Sorry to disagree, but the "is at the desk" is irrelevant. The relevant word is "to", calling for the old dative (or prepositional) case, "whom", and not "who".
     
  14. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

     
  15. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    So you would also say that "Whomever is at the desk will be able to call a taxi for you" is correct?
     
  16. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    Still not convinced but point taken (and thanks for the "even many educated people"! :))
     
  17. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    No, I would say "Whoever is at the desk will be able to call a taxi for you". I would also say, seemingly incorrectly, "you can give this to whomever you choose".
     
  18. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    Pfft, I'm learning this as I go along. I hope I actually remember some of it. :rolleyes: You're not the first member whose opinion I've come to respect that has taken your position in this thread.

    cross-posted
     
  19. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>I would also say, seemingly incorrectly, "you can give this to whomever you choose".

    I believe that is correct.
    Wanna go for a hat trick? ;)
     
  20. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    It's OK in the latter - the subject of that clause is "you". You can give this to any person whom you choose. The "who" is an object in this example so we use the "whom" version. In the desk example above the "who" is the subject. The self-contained clause replaces a noun but it still requires a subject verb and complement.
     
  21. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    Interesting discussion, still only 7.30 am here and the brain already ticking over nicely. The white flag is up. :eek:
     
  22. sumelic Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - California
    I agree with Julian Stuart-- the relative pronoun is declined for its role in the relative clause, even if it is preceded by a "to". This is the same as with other pronouns.

    "I gave it to her" vs. "I gave it to she who must not be named". (not "to her who must not be named)
    "I can give this to whomever" vs. "I will give this to whoever wants it" vs "I can give this to whomever I want (to give it to)"
     
  23. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    Hullo.

    Whoever it is, I don't want to speak to them/him
    "I'll take whoever wants to go"

    Hence: " ... provided you show them to whoever is at the desk".

    GS

    But, e.g. " ... provided you show them to whomever you'll see at the desk"
     
  24. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    "to whoever is at the desk" is correct, in my opinion, for reasons Julian and others have given.

    Procol said
    //No, I would say "Whoever is at the desk will be able to call a taxi for you". I would also say, seemingly incorrectly, "you can give this to whomever you choose". //

    The first sentence is correct, but "You can give this to whomever you choose." is also correct. "Whomever" is the OBJECT of choose.

    In the OP's sentence, "___ is at the desk" requires a subject, as others have said.

    The rule, in English, I might add, is the one makes the choice at the LOWEST (innermost) clausal level. If I recall correctly, this in not the case in some other languages, e.g. German, where the crucial (determining) clause is at at higher level: "Give it to ___" Perhaps this explains Edinburgher's choice.
     
  25. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    More and more interesting. I am basing my hypothesis on three languages I have learnt in life : Latin, German and Russian. None of these can accept the nominative after a preposition, it is the dative, genitive or, in Russian, the prepositional case. That does not stop the noun that follows from being the subject of the next clause, i.e. in this case "who(m)ever is at the desk". Sorry to be such a bonehead but I really don't get it.
     
  26. Edinburgher Senior Member

    Scotland
    German/English bilingual
    If that is indeed the rule, of which I'm not yet entirely convinced, then my German background would indeed explain my choice, because you're right about that not being the case in German (nor, according to Procol, in Russian).

    I'd be interested in Julian's and bennymix's views on the example in #22, where sumelic asserts that "I gave it to she who must not be named" should prevail over "I gave it to her who must not be named". This is in my view totally wrong (even if what was said about whoever is right), because here the subject of the defining clause is who, not she, nor she who. The problem in the case of who(m)ever only arises because there is no convenient doubling of the pronoun where one can be in the dative to connect with the preposition, and the other can be in the nominative to function as subject of the clause.

    There is also the famous bit from the Bible (John 8:7): Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone. This also sometimes appears as Let he who..., but that is a misquote. See www.bibleserver.com.
    The King James Version cunningly moves the clause forward and doubles the pronoun (so that it can use both nominative and dative): He that is without sin ..., let him first cast...
    The English Standard Version unabashedly has Let him who is without...
    The New International Version also cunningly avoids the issue with Let any one of you who is without sin be the first...
    There is also the New International Readers Version which also skirts around the issue: Has any one of you not sinned? Then you be the first...
     
  27. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    I agree with more or less everything said by Edinburgher, except the alleged misquote (Let he who...). The expression "let he who is without sin" might be correct (cf. in French "que celui qui est..."), "let" used in an original meaning of "may", rather than the more modern meaning of "leave" or "allow to". The debate continues...
     
  28. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    This is correct - it's the entire phrase "whoever is at the desk" that's the object of the preposition to, and whoever is the subject of that phrase.
    I agree with Edinburgher that her is correct here; it is the object of to, while who is the subject of the following phrase.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  29. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    This is the only difference you've noticed between English grammar and Latin, German or Russian grammar? ;)
     
  30. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    Yes, of course, I'm a bonehead :confused:
     
  31. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>I'm a bonehead

    Worse, after offering a surrender in post #21, you reentered the debate. :mad: And this after I had prepared the documents for a signature! Don't expect any quarter this time.
     
  32. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    Keeping the thread alive and kicking, I've been asking around, in particular with a friend who is professor of English at Newcastle (UK), and his answer was: "I personally would go for 'whomsoever' but that is rather pedantic. Common usage would be 'whoever'." Any reaction (without the sarcasm please RM1(SS)) ???
     
  33. Procol Senior Member

    Bordeaux
    British English
    "Worse, after offering a surrender in post #21, you reentered the debate. :mad: And this after I had prepared the documents for a signature! Don't expect any quarter this time."

    None expected, none given (and it wasn't unconditional)
    :p
     
  34. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I gave it to her. When we add an adjectival clause to expand on who that person is, we must use who as the subject of that clause, even though the her that the clause modifies is the object of a preposition. If not, the clause will have no subject. On this I agree with Edinburgher. (I am familiar with the Rumpole (wiki) epithet for his wife as "she who must be obeyed" and have some sympathy for someone who feels this is an immutable "epithet that should not be changed":D)

    The same structure is found in the "Let him cast the first stone". There is a "semantic" unit of "he who is without sin" that some apparently do not wish to alter from a grammar perspective, but "him who is without sin" still carries the same meaning.
     
  35. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    • A is fine because it is the subject of is.
    • B is grammatical, but unidiomatic since we would normally say "the person who" or just "the person" except in an indirect question (e.g. "I don't know who is at the desk.").
    • C is ungrammatical because the object of to is the whole relative clause, and the blank requires a subject for the verb is.
    • D may be grammatical, but it is even less idiomatic than B. We would normally say "the person who" or just "the person" except in an indirect question such as "I don't know which is at the desk (the librarian or a librarian's assistant)." [Whichever might work, but it is not one of the choices.]
    ("I gave it to her who must not be named" is correct, but not "I gave it to her whom:cross: must not be named." A relative pronoun acts as a subordinator in the whole sentence, allowing the whole clause to be used as a modifier, a direct object, etc., but it acts as a pronoun in its own clause. Its case is a property of its function as a pronoun, which function always applies in its own clause.)
     
  36. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Why isn't it I gave it to she who must not be named, Forero?

    Isn't she who must not be named the whole clause which is the object of to?

    You say I gave it to whom is at the desk is wrong by what seems to me to be the same token. I'd agree with that, but I'd not fault I gave it to she who must not be named.

    I'm seeking enlightenment, not saying that you are wrong.

    ps. Here are some examples from the corpuses of similar forms:

    ‘I need hardly tell you,’ he continued in his dry voice, ‘what a blow you dealt to she who cared so much for your welfare.
    Ruth Appleby. Rhodes, Elvi.
    Good things come to he who waits. Moonstruck. Edward M. Lerner.
    Enraptured by that vision of a young woman in a yellow dress kneeling with the head of that sickly dolphin in her lap by the side of the road thick with riot noise and human greed and anger, Uncle McKenzie made his way through the protestors to she who would shortly become, and remain long after her death decades later, the woman of all his dreams. Their Story. Thomas Glave.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  37. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    I think it should be I gave it to her who must not be named - her is the object of the preposition to, while who is the subject of the phrase who must not be named, which is a thingamajig* describing or adding further information about her.

    This being the case, I would of course say that all of your examples are incorrect.


    * Apposition? One of those technical terms....
     
  38. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    As I see it, "she/her who must not be named" is not a clause, though it contains one. It is a noun phrase consisting of a pronoun and a relative clause modifying the pronoun. The noun phrase is the object of the preposition to, so the pronoun should be in the objective case.

    Consider the following examples of nonrestrictive relative clauses:

    I saw her, who must not be named, in the garden with Jimmy.
    I gave her, who must not be named, a present.
    I gave the present to her, who must not be named.

    I would not put she in place of her in these sentences, and I don't believe changing a nonrestrictive modifier to an essential one should change the form of what it modifies.
     
  39. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>B is grammatical

    I argue in post #6 that B is not grammatical.
     
  40. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I disagree (somewhat) with post #6.

    The noun phrase who is at the desk is well formed and can mean either "the person who is at the desk" (definite or indefinite) or "whoever is at the desk" (indefinite), and either of these fits the context, grammatically.

    But we usually add something (such as the person or -ever) to who clauses as noun phrases, and apparently some educated native English speakers are unfamiliar with bare who clauses as noun phrases.

    My opinion is that who would be unusual in the given context, and ambiguous if we need to distinguish definite from indefinite, so whoever is a better choice.
     
  41. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    Thanks for that. As my post indicated, I was speculating. To be clear, you're happy with "You can borrow as many books as you like, provided you show them to who is at the desk."

    What about:

    I'm here to help who I can.

    We will pursue who is responsible.

    Do you see these as grammatical but unusual or ambiguous?
     
  42. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I see neither as grammatical. In the first sentence, "who" should be whomever. In the second, "who" should be whoever.
     
  43. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    In the first, whomever is the object of both "help" and "can (help)". Fair enough.
    In the second, whoever is the object of pursue and the subject of "is responsible". And this is a little less fair.

    English doesn't seem to have a word that can at the same time fulfill the functions of Subject and Object.

    That's is why I suspect that modern English uses whoever (whatever the syntactic function of the pronoun).

    GS :)
     
  44. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    Interesting.

    Yeah, forget about that first one.
     
  45. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Yes. Grammatically speaking, whoever is related to who in the same way that whatever is related to what. We can use what to mean "whatever" (e.g. "What goes up must come down" = "Whatever goes up must come down"), and we can (though we usually don't) use who to mean "whoever" (e.g. "Who laughs last, laughs best" = "Whoever laughs last, laughs best"). I know, we usually say "he who laughs", "she who laughs", "the person who laughs", etc., but "who laughs last" is a valid noun phrase in English.

    In fact, I would not bat an eye if I heard someone say "I'm here to help who(m) I can." (Very good example, Gramman) The ambiguity here (particular people I can help vs. anyone at all that I can help) is not terribly important, and remains even if we say "I'm here to help the people I can." (Does "the people" here mean "the particular people that" or "any people whatever that"?)
     

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