Who am I talking to?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by pieanne, May 17, 2007.

  1. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Belgium/French
    Hello!

    I just read in my grammar that this (my title) was the correct way of asking that question, and that you only used "whom" if it was immediately fronted by the preposition ("To whom am I talking?")

    I thought "whom" was the correct form to use when the relative was not subject...

    I'd like to know what the natives think about this...

    Thanks!
     
  2. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    Spain
    U.K. English
    "Who" is a subject pronoun like "he," "she" and "we". We use "who" to ask which person does an action or which person is a certain way.
    EXAMPLES:
    Who made the birthday cake?
    Who is in the kitchen?
    Who is going to do the dishes?

    "Whom" is an object pronoun like "him," "her" and "us". We use "whom" to ask which person receives an action.
    EXAMPLES:
    Whom are you going to invite?
    Whom did he blame for the accident?
    Whom did he hire to do the job?

    "Whom am I talking to?" and "To whom am I talking?" are both correct as far as I can tell, but;

    The form "whom" is becoming less and less common in English. Many native English speakers think "whom" sounds outdated or strange. This trend is particularly common in the United States. Especially when combined with prepositions, most people prefer to use "who" as the object pronoun. To most native English speakers, the examples below sound quite natural.
    EXAMPLES:
    Who did you come to the party with?
    I don't know who he gave the book to
    That is the woman who I was talking to.
    Who did you get that from?
    Do you have any idea who he sold his car to?
    That is the person who I got the information from.

    Not many people use "whom" these days and it sounds very formal, especially with the preposition at the beginning.
     
  3. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Belgium/French
    Thank you!
    You mean the preposition at the beginning sounds formal? (that's what I think too)
     
  4. marget Senior Member

    I also think that the preposition at the beginning sounds formal, but I prefer it. "Who am I talking to" is a lot less formal than "To whom am I speaking"
     
  5. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Belgium/French
    And what do you think about "Whom am I speaking to?" ? :)
     
  6. marget Senior Member

    I would get the impression that if someone says that, s/he is putting on airs and doesn't know the most formal way to ask the question.
     
  7. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Belgium/French
    OK!
    So, "Who am I speaking to ?" is the most formal way to ask the question?
     
  8. marget Senior Member

    I think "To whom am I speaking" is the most formal. It's just my opinion.:)
     
  9. kenny4528

    kenny4528 Senior Member

    Taipei
    Mandarin, Taiwan
    Or do you mean the most common way....?
     
  10. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Belgium/French
    <I would get the impression that if someone says that, s/he is putting on airs and doesn't know the most formal way to ask the question.>

    No, I meant the "most formal way"
     
  11. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    I don't know about more formal, but "Who am I speaking to" is certainly more sensible.

    Would anyone ever say "Whom were you speaking to, Pieanne"? No one I know.
     
  12. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Belgium/French
    Ok. Thanks! :)

    So, "who" is correct anytime, except when you have to use "whose"?
     
  13. marget Senior Member

    When I said "Whom am I speaking to" gives me the impression someone is putting on airs and doesn't know the most formal way to ask the question, I meant the the person probably didn't know to say "To whom am I speaking", which sounds to me like the most formal way to state the question. I meant that "Whom am I speaking to" means that the person doesn't know grammar well enough.
     
  14. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Belgium/French
    Thank you, Marget.
    I think I've got it now! :)
     
  15. cincotigre New Member

    US -- English
    "To whom am I speaking?" is the correct way to say it.

    However, as liliput said, this formal speech is nearly dead. In the US at least, NO ONE says it this way.

    MUCH more common is "Who am I speaking to?"
     
  16. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    "There is no way Who were you talking to? can be regarded as incorrect use of the language. If you are teaching English to foreign learners, you should unquestionably teach them to who in such contexts, not whom."

    "I looked for whom in a couple of months of my recent email, mostly from fellow professors, and I didn't find a single example of it in an interrogative." Geoffrey Pullum http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=400442
     
  17. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Be careful about absolutes. ;) I generally say "To whom am I speaking?" on the telephone, and I've had people ask me that exact question over the phone. :)

    Elisabetta
     
  18. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Belgium/French
    Pffff... ( :) )
    When you teach, you're mostly sharing "absolutes"!
    Let's say "to whom am I speaking?" is a set question?
     
  19. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English
    Hi,

    This is another case where we have a clash between the usual rules of grammar and general usage. As usual, usage wins, because for language usage dictates what we mean by correct.

    "To whom am I speaking?" is a standard idiom that was used by switchboard operators to ask who was on the phone line before they placed a call.

    This standard phrase was made fun of by Lili Tomlin's operator character Ernestine who would ask. "Is this the person to whom I am speaking?"

    I'm glad that whom is fading from common use in the US. It is, however, a very slow fade and many well educated people still use whom correctly in ordinary speech. Unfortunately, some people, who don't know better, use whom when the grammatically correct word would be who.

    I agree with the earlier advice, except in stock phrases like "To whom am I speaking?" I think it is safe to use who for whom.
     

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