Accusative conundrum: whomever/whoever

Minotaur

Member
British
"We do not know the extent to which it was edited by whoever leaked it to the newspaper."

"Whoever" here functions as the subject of "leaked"; but following the preposition "by" it ought perhaps to be accusative (?dative).

Is there any way around this, other than the inelegant (in my view):

"We do not know the extent to which it was edited by whomever it was that leaked it to the newspaper."

?
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    While we wait for the who/m experts, I'll just mention that I always rephrase when I'm concerned:
    "We do not know the extent to which it was edited by the person who leaked it to the newspaper."

    This approach also allows me to use "who" with a person, rather than "that" -- something I prefer whenever possible.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi, Minotaur: welcome to the forums:)

    "Whoever" is actually correct in your sentence.

    The easiest way to check whether you need whoever or whomever is to replace "who(m)ever" with "the person who(m)".

    So your sentence would be We do not know the extent to which it was edited by the person who(m) leaked it to the newspaper.
    In that context who would be right and whom wrong: we need a subject pronoun, because the relative is the subject of leaked.

    So...
    We do not know the extent to which it was edited by whoever leaked it to the newspaper.:tick:
    We do not know the extent to which it was edited by whomever leaked it to the newspaper.:cross:
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Welcome to the forum, Minotaur:)
    I don't have any problem at all with the whoever in your original sentence.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Although it is barely readable, this page is interesting in that it cites the same grave author (Hume) using both whoever and whomsoever in this same construction. As the author rather clumsily points out, the first is right and the second wrong.

    He didn't have the benefit of young Miss Loob's excellent advice, but offers a rather similar suggestion of his own.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hello Minotaur, and another welcome :)

    You have, as you say, found a conundrum.
    There is no consistent answer to your question.
    In >> Topic summary: Who and whom you will find lots of examples of sentences that illustrate the conundrum.
    http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=169
    There is one category of sentence that appears to create considerable discussion and in which the choice between who and whom appears to depend on how you choose to analyse the sentence.
    ...
    These threads discuss examples in which the pronoun might be considered to be the subject of one part of the sentence (should be who) or the object of another (should be whom).
    Hence there is scope for debate :)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You have, as you say, found a conundrum.
    There is no consistent answer to your question.
    [...]Hence there is scope for debate :)
    I'm a little worried by this, Panj. because I think, in the case raised by Minotaur, there is a consistent answer to at least part of the question, and it is given, consistently, by the threads you link, and by the threads linked off them.

    It is the same answer as that given by Loob and by the author of the page I linked in post 6. In such cases the pronoun (who or whom) takes the case appropriate to the subordinate clause of which it is a part - it doesn't take the case appropriate to the fact that it follows a preposition.

    I regard whether you choose to say who or whom for the accusative or disjuntive (with who or with whom) as a separate issue - I'm concerned here with the case taken by the pronoun in these apparently conflicting circumstances.
     

    Minotaur

    Member
    British
    And an especial thank to Tompion for Hume. I was going to go with Copyright's suggestion, but that was a little unsatisfactory for exactly the reasons that Tompion's link explains:

    We do not know the extent to which it was edited by the person or persons who leaked it to the newspaper.

    Whoever seems to be satisfactory after all.
     
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