Who/whom: It turns out that the woman, <?> the police asked not be identified, ...

Jeromed

Banned
USA, English
Who or Whom: Which one would you use in the following sentence, and why?

It turns out that the woman, whom/who the police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.
 
  • avaiki

    Member
    new zealand english
    Jeromed,

    Whom is fairly archaic now ... as in ... For whom the bell tolls.

    It can still sound nice in a sentence if you drop the preceding "the" i.e.

    It turns out that the woman, whom police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    But if you just want a normal, modern sound stick with the "who the police" ...

    It turns out that the woman, who the police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.
     

    Jeromed

    Banned
    USA, English
    Whom is fairly archaic now ... as in ... For whom the bell tolls.

    Avaiki,
    I understand and agree with you completely. However, I'd like to know which pronoun you would use per the traditional (old-fashioned, if you will) grammar.

    In other words: Is the pronoun a subject or an object in that clause?
     

    avaiki

    Member
    new zealand english
    Avaiki,
    I understand and agree with you completely. However, I'd like to know which pronoun you would use per the traditional (old-fashioned, if you will) grammar.

    In other words: Is the pronoun a subject or an object in that clause?

    Not being an English professor, I couldn't answer those two points accurately (!) but I am guessing that out of those two words it would be "whom" - whom being an object and woman being the subject?

    cringing in anticipation of public correction, humiliation, etc ...
     

    Fenoxielo

    Member
    United States - English
    I believe it would be "who" in this case, since the police are not actually asking her, they are asking that she not be identified, so "who" is the subject of an indirect statement detailing what the police asked.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Welcome to the forum, avaiki and Fenoxielo.

    Fenoxielo has the right answer. "Who" replaces "she" in the subordinate clause. But if they asked her not to be identified, then it would be "It turns out that the woman, whom the police asked not to be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer."

    The form of the relative pronoun helps us find its implied place in the subordinate clause.
     

    Diddy

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    The following will help you to better understand the who/whoever - whom/whomever usage:

    The general patterns are:

    who/whoever + verb
    The woman who sang yesterday has studied voice for years.
    Give the money to whoever needs it.

    whom/whomever + subject + verb

    The woman whom I met yesterday is a voice teacher.
    Get it to whomever you like.

     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The woman, whom/who the police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist.

    If you wish to distinguish between who and whom, then in this case whom should be used. The sentence is a rather odd one: it means The police asked the woman (who was a talented pianist) not to be identified. It is not clear to me how the woman could take responsibility for whether she is identified or not.

    If you mean The police asked reporters not to identify the woman, a talented pianist, then say so.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I vote with Fenoxielo and Forero.

    The underlying sentences are:

    The woman was a talented pianist.
    The police asked that she not be identified.

    'She' is the subject of "not be identified"; so when 'she' is converted to a relative, you still need the subject pronoun - 'who'.

    Loob

    EDIT: I've just noticed teddy's interpolated a 'to' in his comment, making the underlying sentences:
    The woman was a talented pianist.
    The police asked her not to be identified.
    I agree that in that case the 'correct' option would be 'whom'.
     

    Jeromed

    Banned
    USA, English
    The following will help you to better understand the who/whoever - whom/whomever usage:

    The general patterns are:

    who/whoever + verb
    The woman who sang yesterday has studied voice for years.
    Give the money to whoever needs it.

    whom/whomever + subject + verb

    The woman whom I met yesterday is a voice teacher.
    Get it to whomever you like.


    I understand the difference between who and whom perfectly. Based on what you know, would you please give us your opinion as to which is the right choice in the sentence quoted in post 1?
     

    Diddy

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I understand the difference between who and whom perfectly. Based on what you know, would you please give us your opinion as to which is the right choice in the sentence quoted in post 1?

    O.K. According to my English studying, in that sentence the correct answer would be whom, because it is followed by the noun "the police"

    It turns out that the woman, whom the police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    If we change the sentence to read:

    It turns out that the woman, who asked for a second chance....

    Here, the correct answer would be who, as it is followed by the verb "asked".
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    It's somewhat tricky, no doubt. However, I agree with Loob, because she is the subject of a passive statement (in the subjunctive mood). To give a plainer example of a passive statement, if you say "She was not identified", she is the subject, not object.

    I don't think the fact that the verb is preceded by "the police" has any bearing on the woman being either the subject or object, since the police did not ask her.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The police asked her not to be identified means the police put a request to her.

    Everybody seems to assume that the police did not put any request to her, but that they put a request to somebody else - in other words, The police asked for her not to be identified. So let's try to make a relative clause out of this: It turns out that the woman, for whom the police put out a request not to be identified, was a talented pianist... Rather confusing: best to avoid the relative clause, I think. I think it gets even more confusing if you try to make a relative clause out of The police asked that she be not identified.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I believe we can change "asked" to "said" and insert a "should" without changing the meaning:

    It turns out that the woman, whom/who the police said should not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    Or, instead of "should not", we can use "was not to":

    It turns out that the woman, whom/who the police said was not to be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    Lest someone think that the police asked the woman, we can use "told witnesses" instead of plain "asked" or "said":

    It turns out that the woman, whom/who the police told witnesses was not to be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    Hopefully, no one would want to use "whom" in any of these versions.

    Although Diddy's rule works in most cases, it fails here because of nested subordinate clauses. For anyone who speaks Spanish, a better rule for "who"/"whom" is that the "m" on "whom" indicates the presence of a preposition (or a personal "a") (at the start of the subordinate clause) in the Spanish translation. Likewise, if the German translation has a nominative relative pronoun or the French translation has "qui", use "who", not "whom".
     

    Diddy

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Now I got confused, also. I am sure, based on my studying........ that it should be whom

    It turns out that the woman, whom the police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    If I change the sentence to read:

    It turns out that the woman to whom the police asked not be identified was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    I see here that whom is an object of the preposition to, then it should be whom.

    Now, according with Forero's writing:
    Although Diddy's rule works in most cases, it fails here because of nested subordinate clauses. For anyone who speaks Spanish, a better rule for "who"/"whom" is that the "m" on "whom" indicates the presence of a preposition (or a personal "a") (at the start of the subordinate clause) in the Spanish translation. Likewise, if the German translation has a nominative relative pronoun or the French translation has "qui", use "who", not "whom".

    If we assume that there would be an "a" as a preposition preceeding the who/whom...........it is still the same case...........who/whom is acting as an object of a preposition, then whom should be the correct answer.

    This is a very "tricky" matter.................
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I didn't mean to confuse the issue more, but I am trying to come at the issue from different sides to show why "who" makes sense to me.

    A rule based on whether the next thing is a noun or a verb is a good rule for single level subordination, but for complicated sentences like the one in question, we need to evoke a more accurate rule:

    If, after removing the "who" or "whom" from the subordinate clause, an object is missing, use "whom". If a subject is missing, use "who".

    In "the police asked not be identified", there is no preposition, the subject of "asked" is "the police", the direct object of "asked" is "[that she] not be identified", and what is missing is the subject of the subjunctive verb "be". "Be" does not take a direct object.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've just noticed teddy's interpolated a 'to' in his comment

    Oops. Thank you, Loob. I have just realized that my brain put the word to into this sentence to try to make sense of it.

    To me,
    - She the police asked not be identified is not a valid sentence: therefore who the police asked not to be identified is not a valid relative clause.
    - The police asked her not be identified is not a valid sentence: therefore whom the police asked not be identified is not a valid relative clause.
    - It follows that the sentence we are discussing is nonsense.

    As far as I can see, contributors above who are inserting bits such as that she (Forero) into the understood sentence that forms the relative clause are making the same mistake that I did: they are seeing things that are not there in an effort to turn the sentence before them into something grammatical.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    So much chat!

    Whom is rarely used in contemporary English. When it is used, it is unnecessary. Whom has been replaced by who.

    Most people don't know how to use it anyway, and even if they do, they sound like dicks.

    My advice for a foreigner learning English would be to always use who. I do. [except in certain idiomatic phrases]
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    So much chat!

    Whom is rarely used in contemporary English. When it is used, it is unnecessary. Whom has been replaced by who.

    Most people don't know how to use it anyway, and even if they do, they sound like dicks.

    My advice for a foreigner learning English would be to always use who. I do. [except in certain idiomatic phrases]
    In that case, here speaks a dick.
    Your opinion may be worthwhile, your insulting of those of us who speak differently is not and does you no credit.

    My advice to any student of English is to ignore un-informed opinion and find out what is expected of you, especially in exams. There are still many parts of the world, and many contexts, where failure to distinguish correctly between who and whom will attract criticism.
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    So much chat!

    Whom is rarely used in contemporary English. When it is used, it is unnecessary. Whom has been replaced by who.

    Most people don't know how to use it anyway, and even if they do, they sound like dicks.

    My advice for a foreigner learning English would be to always use who. I do. [except in certain idiomatic phrases]

    It turns out that the woman, whom police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    I vote for "who" in the above sentence, as the grammatical situation is the same as in: "The woman who wore a green hat was ...". The whole 'police' clause just describes the woman (who is the subject of the sentence).

    Turning to the use of 'whom', which of us would say "The man to who I gave the key...?" (I know, I know, you would avoid the issue by saying "The man I gave the key to" - I use the sentence just to make the point that "whom" sometimes sounds essential). Also, as Nzfauna says, there are certainly idiomatic phrases which still call for 'whom': "God, in whom we trust". [See Randolph Quirk's A University Grammar of English, para 4.88: 'The personal objective whom is often replaced by who but never when preceded by a preposition.'] I don't push for the use of whom at all, it's just that I don't want a learner of English to think they can ignore the question completely.

     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think what se16teddy's posts are highlighting (correct me if I'm wrong, teddy!) is the fact that BrE speakers don't actually use the construction
    The police asked that she not be identified.

    Instead, we would say something like:
    The police asked that she should not be identified

    which as a relative clause would not be
    The woman, who the police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist

    but rather
    The woman, who the police asked should not be identified, was a talented pianist.

    Still "who" not "whom" though:)

    Loob
     

    Diddy

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    So much chat!

    Whom is rarely used in contemporary English. When it is used, it is unnecessary. Whom has been replaced by who.

    Most people don't know how to use it anyway, and even if they do, they sound like dicks.

    My advice for a foreigner learning English would be to always use who. I do. [except in certain idiomatic phrases]

    I am a foreign student, but I think: if it is true that "whom" has been replaced by "who" these days, we have to understand whether to use both words, for those "certain idiomatic phrases" that you mentioned, mainly if we are working in formal translations. As you wrote, it is not important the "whom" usage when talking, but in writting............I think we have to be sure to use all the words adequately.
     

    Ynez

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Jeromed, the answer according to traditional grammar and all that is whom.

    The part of the sentence we care about as to analyze is just this :

    whom/who the police asked not be identified

    which is the relative clause,

    there the police is the subject

    and the relative pronoun (whom/who) is the object.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    I appologise for my "sound like dicks" comment. It is an acceptable phrase in my culture. I only meant to say that it sounds/looks "snobbish" or "try-hard", and I did mention that it was a contemporary view.

    Diddy, you mentioned needing to know how to translate INTO idioms in English. I believe that, by and large, the idiomatic expressions would not have a direct counterpart in the other language, so you wouldn't need to translate them into WHOM. As for formal writing, yes it appears, but I believe that it is disappearing, there is a move to avoid it, when you cannot use who instead, governed by Elwintee's quote "[See Randolph Quirk's A University Grammar of English, para 4.88: 'The personal objective whom is often replaced by who but never when preceded by a preposition.']"

    Panjandrum and GWB, you're just being rude. I am not uninformed. I was just trying to make things simple for a non-native English speaker.
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    So much chat!

    Whom is rarely used in contemporary English. When it is used, it is unnecessary. Whom has been replaced by who.

    I wonder to whom I am speaking. Indeed, whom is still used by us Yanks, especially by those we call... college-eduated.

    In this instance, who/whom depends on context. My reading is that the police did not address their request to the woman, so I would use who - because I believe it's correct, and not because of lax grammar.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think what se16teddy's posts are highlighting (correct me if I'm wrong, teddy!)

    This is not what I am saying. I have no objection to Americans or anyone else using the subjunctive after ask if they wish.

    What I am saying is this. When you are converting a sentence into a relative clause, no rule of logic or grammar allows you to omit inconvenient essential parts of the sentence.

    Most contributors seem to assume that the sentence The police asked that she be not identified can legitimately be converted into the relative clause who / whom the police asked not be identified. It cannot, because you have lost the essential word that.

    In fact, I think that there is no way of creating a grammatical relative clause from the sentence The police asked that she be not identified using she as the relative pronoun. I think that this is because she is not the subject or object of the main verb in that sentence.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Sorry to have misinterpreted you, teddy:eek:.

    So what you're saying is that it's correct to translate:
    (1) the police said that the woman should not be identified
    into
    (2) the woman, who the police said should not be identified,
    because 'that' in sentence (1) is optional;

    .... but that it's not correct to translate:
    (1a) the police asked that the woman should not be identified
    into
    (2a) the woman, who the police asked should not be identified,
    because 'that' in sentence (1a) is not optional.

    Have I got that right?

    If so, I need to do some more pondering:)

    It's also just struck me that I would happily leave out the "who" in the defining (without commas) version of (2). Which is intriguing, because you usually only omit 'object' relative pronouns.

    Jeromed, you've led us into very deep waters!

    Loob
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    That's right, Loob.

    Actually, I hadn't thought about The woman, who police said should not be identified, was a pianist, but I am happy with this sentence. You could analyse it as The woman who (police said) should not be identified, so the sentence underlying the relevant clause might simply be She should not be identified. But if you see the underlying sentence as Police said she shouldn't be identified, that's OK under the 'don't omit essential words' principle too.
     
    Who or Whom: Which one would you use in the following sentence, and why?

    It turns out that the woman, whom/who the police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.
    You can use either "whom" or "who" in your sentence.
    "whom/who the police asked not be identified" is a relative clause. "who/whom" in this case is an object. So you should use "whom" but "who" is acceptable.
    "Whom" is the correct form, though "Who" is sometimes used in conversation.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    That's right, Loob.

    Actually, I hadn't thought about The woman, who police said should not be identified, was a pianist, but I am happy with this sentence. You could analyse it as The woman who (police said) should not be identified, so the sentence underlying the relevant clause might simply be She should not be identified. But if you see the underlying sentence as Police said she shouldn't be identified, that's OK under the 'don't omit essential words' principle too.

    And if the underlying sentence is "Police said that she shouldn't be identified"?
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And if the underlying sentence is "Police said that she shouldn't be identified"?

    It appears that English does not allow a relative clause introduced by this subsidiary clause she. As far as I am aware, no-one says the woman, who police say that shouldn't be identified,... (though, knowing this forum, I'm quite prepared for someone somewhere to say 'Oh, we say that'!)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Teddy, I've pondered - truly.

    I'm finding it hard to identify constructions, other than 'ask that', where "that" is compulsory:

    The police said [that] she shouldn't be identified...
    The police demanded [that] she shouldn't be identified...
    The police insisted [that] she shouldn't be identified...
    The police requested [that maybe compulsory?] she shouldn't be identified...

    These are "relativised" as

    The woman, who the police said should not be identified
    The woman, who the police demanded should not be identified
    The woman, who the police insisted should not be identified
    The woman, who the police requested should not be identified...

    You may have identified an anomaly. But my suspicion is that it is indeed proper to translate

    The police asked that she shouldn't be identified...
    into
    The woman, who the police asked should not be identified...

    Time for bed, said zebedee...

    Loob

     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    "The woman, who police say that shouldn't be identified,..."

    My point was that I would not say it with "that". I would just take out "that" and keep the rest of the sentence (this sentence, or the original one). I don't consider "that" to be essential once the subject which followed has been fronted as "who".

    In fact, when changing "Police say that she shouldn't be identified" to "She, police say, shouldn't be identified" (fronting the subject again), I dispense with "that" for the same reason.

    By the way, if I wish to subordinate this last quoted sentence, I will keep the offsetting commas: "The woman, who, police say, shouldn't be identified, was a talented pianist." Still no place for "that" though, but that's OK.
     

    marquess

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I agree with Teddy's second post (#19) that there is a lot of confusion due to different interpretations about the real meaning of a nonsensical phrase. We can't correct it until we know the intended meaning and get the rest of the phrase right first. Did the police ask the woman not to be identified (by herself), ask that they should not identify her, or ask that no one else (the court or the press) should identify her? The existing phrase does not clearly or correctly say any of these. If it is made to do so, it is likely 'who' will be correct, but depending on how it is structured, it might be 'whom'.

    I agree with #2 and #20 that 'whom' is a bit archaic, some people don't understand how to use it properly, and just take the easy route of always using 'who' except in quoting well established phrases using 'whom', but 'whom' is still around, and still sounds (more) correct in many cases, and I think it is important to know why. My parents and English teachers thought it was important and always corrected me (and I don't think i'm that posh or formal), and although they never taught me a rule, I think I learned correct usage by experience. It all seemed to come clear to me when I learned German where there is a clear rule, and I think it is a hangover from our Saxon past perpetuated in the 'Queen's English' (after all the last few generations of our Royalty are Hanoverians). In German who is 'wer', but when you use it with the prepositions 'to', 'by', 'with', 'for', 'from', which take the dative in German, it becomes 'wem' (an Wem, mit Wem etc.) and it is exactly in these circumstances that 'whom' sounds correct in English (by whom, to whom, with whom etc.).

    - see also thread 26th Sept 'Give it to who told you to' (sic), where I think the same rule gives the correct answers.
     

    marquess

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    It turns out that the woman, whom/who the police asked not be identified, was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer.

    So:
    It turns out that the woman, who the police asked not to identify herself,
    It turns out that the woman to whom the police had said not to identify herself,

    It turns out that the woman, who had asked the police not to identify her,
    It turns out that the woman by whom the police had been asked not to identify her,

    It turns out that the woman who the police had asked the press not to identify,
    It turns out that the woman of whom the press had been asked not to speak,

    etc.etc. - no preposition 'taking the dative', no 'm' ending.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think the interesting grammar point coming out of all this is that not all nouns / pronouns in English may be turned into the relative pronoun of a relative clause; and it is not an easy matter to define which may and which may not, and there are clearly diverging opinions in this area.

    We have had issues above with nouns / pronouns in subsidiary clauses. But (trying to draw out the general principle rather than to drag this thread off track!) there are restrictions on nouns in main clauses too.

    Help us so to love You that we may fully serve You. OK Serving You is perfect freedom. OK Help us so to love You that we may fully serve You, whom serving is perfect freedom. NO, not permissible as far as I know

    Help us so to love You that we may fully serve You. OK To serve You is perfect freedom. OK Help us so to love You that we may fully serve You, whom to serve is perfect freedom. OK at least in some formal sorts of English http://www.io.com/~kellywp/LesserFF/Aug/Augustine.html

    It may be worth also mentioning here the well known borderline case Thou are a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. http://books.google.com/books?id=C2q...7uiRI8znYOq_jw

    Returning to nouns in subsidiary clauses, I suspect that the general rule is that such nouns cannot be turned into a pronoun introducing a relative clause.
    I think that man is handsome. OK I don't know whether he is the right man for me. OK I think that man, who I don't know whether is the right man for me, is handsome. NO, but colloquial English does allow the disapproved I think that man, who I don't know whether he is the right man for me, is handsome.

    We have identified a clear exception in the case of omittable that. I think that man is handsome. OK You say (that) that man is reliable. OK I think that that man, who you say is reliable, is handsome. OK

    I don't know any resources that give guidance on this issue.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I think the interesting grammar point coming out of all this is that not all nouns / pronouns in English may be turned into the relative pronoun of a relative clause; and it is not an easy matter to define which may and which may not, and there are clearly diverging opinions in this area.

    We have had issues above with nouns / pronouns in subsidiary clauses. But (trying to draw out the general principle rather than to drag this thread off track!) there are restrictions on nouns in main clauses too.

    Help us so to love You that we may fully serve You. OK Serving You is perfect freedom. OK Help us so to love You that we may fully serve You, whom serving is perfect freedom. NO, not permissible as far as I know

    Help us so to love You that we may fully serve You. OK To serve You is perfect freedom. OK Help us so to love You that we may fully serve You, whom to serve is perfect freedom. OK at least in some formal sorts of English http://www.io.com/~kellywp/LesserFF/Aug/Augustine.html

    It may be worth also mentioning here the well known borderline case Thou are a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. http://books.google.com/books?id=C2q...7uiRI8znYOq_jw

    Returning to nouns in subsidiary clauses, I suspect that the general rule is that such nouns cannot be turned into a pronoun introducing a relative clause.
    I think that man is handsome. OK I don't know whether he is the right man for me. OK I think that man, who I don't know whether is the right man for me, is handsome. NO, but colloquial English does allow the disapproved I think that man, who I don't know whether he is the right man for me, is handsome.

    We have identified a clear exception in the case of omittable that. I think that man is handsome. OK You say (that) that man is reliable. OK I think that that man, who you say is reliable, is handsome. OK

    I don't know any resources that give guidance on this issue.

    I am afraid the guiding resource is not printed material but the match (or lack of it) between writers/speakers and readers/listeners.

    I find "whom serving is perfect freedom" as acceptable as "whom to serve is perfect freedom", but "than which nothing greater can be conceived" is bordering on trouble. What part of speech is "than" in "Nothing greater than He can be conceived"? Does this become "than Who nothing greater can be conceived"?

    The "whether" sentence works for me if we leave out the extra "he": "I think that man, who I don't know whether he is the right man for me, is handsome." Sometimes a complicated relative clause warrants keeping the extra pronoun (even though it has supposedly been "replaced" by "who(m)"), but this one is not really complicated enough for that. ;)

    For me, the relative clause "who the police asked not be identified" falls in the borderline category. Changing it to "who it is important not be identified" crosses the line I think, crying out to become "whom it is important not to identify".

    When sentences get ugly, it is best to rewrite them. I would opt for:

    "It turns out that the woman - the police asked that she not be identified - was a talented pianist and an unpublished writer."

    I have to admit that not all sentences can be “relativised”. Here is what may be a worst case scenario from another thread:

    "The most interesting thing about the cloth was that clothes made from it would be completely invisible."

    I can force out the "that" only by adding a colon, and I don’t think this sentence lends itself to the subordinating process at all:

    “Clothes which the most important thing about the cloth was [that? colon?] made from it would be completely invisible” :confused:

    "Clothes which made from the cloth, about which the most interesting thing was this fact, would be completely invisible"?

    “Clothes which would be completely invisible made from the cloth about which this property was the most interesting thing”?
     

    marquess

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
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