Who/whom: If you [are wondering] <?> it was [who called] you earlier in the week, it was [he].

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shiness

Senior Member
Korean, South Korea.
If you [are wondering] [whom] it was [who called] you earlier in the week, it was[ he.]


Hi.

Of the four segregations above in the example, which do you think is grammartically incorrect?

My text book says it's quite tough for non-natives,,my choice was he -> him.
 
  • rocstar

    Senior Member
    México - Español-
    If you [are wondering] [whom] it was [who called] you earlier in the week, it was[ he.]


    Hi.

    Of the four segregations above in the example, which do you think is grammartically incorrect?

    My text book says it's quite tough for non-natives,,my choice was he -> him.
    If you are wondering who it was who called you earlier in the week, it was he.

    Rocstar
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Could you please throw a brief explanation as to why Whom is inappropriate?
    In the traditional grammar recommmended when writing careful English, the verb to be never takes an object. So when you are trying to write the most correct English, you should write I have / like / see him but I am he or That is he. (If you come to England, though, you will find that many people do not follow this rule in speech). This explains why at the end of the sentence you have It was he.

    Under the rules of traditional grammar recommended when writing careful English, the word who is used for the subject of a verb, and whom is used for the object of a verb. So when you are trying to write the most correct English, you should write Who is there? But Whom can I see? (If you come to England, though, you will find that many people never use the word whom).

    If you analyse the sentence you can see it as an example of indirect speech, meaning the same as the following direct speech sentence:
    If you are wondering 'It was who who called me earlier this week?', it was he.
    Clearly It was who in the middle of the sentence shares the same structure as it was he at the end.

    Does this help?

    Why is the verb to be different from other verbs? I suspect it is because in the 18th century, when people set out to create a standard English grammar, grammarians noticed that in the Latin language the verb esse (to be) never takes a noun in the accusative case (similar to our 'object'). Latin was greatly respected as the language of science, and they and decided it would be a good idea if we had the same rule in English.
     
    Last edited:

    Accius

    Member
    English - USA
    Could you please throw a brief explanation as to why Whom is inappropriate?
    Sure. The reason is that in English, there are three cases: the subjective, the possessive, and the objective. The possessive is used to show possession (e.g. "His dog"), the objective is used as an object (e.g. a direct object as in "He helped her", or indirect object as in "He gave a present to her"), and the subjective is used as the subject of a verb or as the complement of a copula.

    That probably sounds confusing, especially the "copula" part. Let me explain. A "copula" is a verb that "links" or equates two things. The important thing to remember is that "to be" is a copula in English, and that the subjective case is used. That means that we say "It is he", "Who is she?", "It is I", "I am not he", etc., rather than "It is him", "Who is her?", "It is me", or "I am not him".

    Of course, in colloquial speech, some of these are quite common. The word "whom", however, is rarely used in colloquial speech, and so any sentence containing that word will be a sentence that uses "proper grammar", instead of colloquialisms.

    That being said, basically it is correct to say "who it was who called you" for the same reason it is correct to say "who it was", which in turn is correct for the same reason it is correct to say "Who was it?" and "I am he".

    To make things as simple as possible, you can ignore all of the above, and realize that in the phrase "who it was who called you", the only object is the word "you"; and since "whom" is only used when it is an object (and only in formal speech), it will not be used in this case.

    Another way to think of it is to change the sentence around a bit:

    "If you are wondering who it was who called you" is similar to "I wonder who it was who called me", which is also similar to "Who was it who called me?" or "I don't know who it was [who called me]".

    Looking at it this way, it should be more obvious that one would not say "I don't know whom it was", but rather "I don't know who it was".

    Espero que te sirva.
     

    shiness

    Senior Member
    Korean, South Korea.
    Yes, thank you Se16teddy. It seems a help, though I might have to read your reply and the sentence in question respectively and beat my brains for next 30 mins in order to understand it fully. I've already looked up in my Collins Cobuild dictionary only in vain to help myself.
     
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