Whom do you want to be

Sarp84224

Senior Member
Learning English
The verb ‘be’ when used as a linking verb cannot take an object pronoun, for example:

It is he.

I’m aware that most people would say ‘It is him’. That’s not really what is confusing me.

I was watching a video about politics and one question asked to people was, “Whom do you want to be the next Prime Minister?”

Which makes sense to state:

I want him/her to be the next Prime Minister.

My question is, in that question is ‘to’ separate to the verb ‘be’?

Or, am I right in thinking that ‘whom’ is the object of the verb ‘want’ and ‘be’ is acting as a helping verb?

Is ‘to’ just simply an infinitive marker?

I found the following on grammarbook:

“It is not wrong to start a question with the word whom. The phrase “to be” does make a difference. The following are both correct:
“Whom do you want to be the next prime minister?” (I want him to be the next prime minister.)
“Who do you hope is the next prime minister?” (I hope he is the next prime minister.)”

Is the user right?
 
  • Rigardo Lee

    Senior Member
    Whom do you want [///] to be a teacher?

    I want [you] to be a teacher.



    To and be is basically not separable.

    It's 'a person who's going to be someone' that takes the place of whom.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I found the following on grammarbook:

    “It is not wrong to start a question with the word whom. The phrase “to be” does make a difference. The following are both correct:
    “Whom do you want to be the next prime minister?” (I want him to be the next prime minister.)
    “Who do you hope is the next prime minister?” (I hope he is the next prime minister.)”

    Is the user right?
    That's right. "Whom" can be the object of "want" but not the subject of "is".
     

    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    That's right. "Whom" can be the object of "want" but not the subject of "is".
    When there are two verbs and there is only one subject or object in a sentence, how does one work out which verb governs a subject or object?
     

    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    I found this online:

    The first word in the question "Who do you want to be?" is not an object. It is a predicative complement. Complements of the copular verb be are not considered to be objects.
    Because the subject of be in this sentence corresponds to the "nominative" pronoun you, tradition prescribes putting the predicative complement in the "nominative case" as well: you should use who and not whom, as the book you read seems to have mentioned.
    When be has an accusative pronoun as its subject, tradition prescribes putting the predicative complement in the accusative: "Whom do you want him to be?" (In other situations, it gets more complicated.)
    I put "nominative case" in quotation marks because it's highly debatable whether modern English actually has any kind of case system at all—and if it does, whether "nominative" is an appropriate label for the case used in this context. But that's the traditional name used to refer to forms like I they who as opposed to me them whom.
    I think who posted that is in the wrong because the word ‘whom’ is not functioning as an object of the verb ‘be’, but rather the object of the verb ‘want’.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    The object of "want" is not "whom"; it is the infinitive clause "whom to be prime minister".
    When an infinitive clause is in object position, the subject of the infinitive is in the objective case.
    I know this sounds weird, but test it with another pronoun:
    I want him to be prime minister. :tick:
    I want he to be prime minister. :cross:
     

    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    The object of "want" is not "whom"; it is the infinitive clause "whom to be prime minister".
    When an infinitive clause is in object position, the subject of the infinitive is in the objective case.
    I know this sounds weird, but test it with another pronoun:
    I want him to be prime minister. :tick:
    I want he to be prime minister. :cross:
    “Subject of the infinitive is in the objective case”

    Is that not an oxymoron? How can a subject take an objective case? If so, it wouldn’t be a subject but rather an object.
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    It is strange, but that's what happens, as Cenzontle showed with these examples:

    I want him to be prime minister. :tick:
    I want he to be prime minister. :cross:
     

    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    It is strange, but that's what happens, as Cenzontle showed with these examples:

    I want him to be prime minister. :tick:
    I want he to be prime minister. :cross:
    “Following certain verbs or prepositions, infinitives commonly do have an expressed subject, e.g.,
    • I want them to eat their dinner.
    • For him to fail now would be a disappointment.
    As these examples illustrate, the subject of the infinitive is in the objective case (them, him) in contrast to the nominative case that would be used with a finite verb, e.g., "They ate their dinner." Such accusative and infinitive constructions are present in Latin and Ancient Greek, as well as many modern languages. The unusual case for the subject of an infinitive is an example of exceptional case-marking, where the infinitive clause's role being an object of a verb or preposition (want, for) overpowers the pronoun's subjective role within the clause.”

    I understand now.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    For him to fail now would be a disappointment.
    This example is not like the others. Here "him to fail now" is not the object of "for" but "him" is the subject of the infinitive, and the whole infinitive construction "for him to fail now" is the subject of "would".

    I don't see a way to make an inverted "whom" question out of this example, but there is something called an in situ question, without subject-verb inversion, that asks for something to be repeated:

    You want whom to be the next prime minister?
    You hope who is the next prime minister?
    For whom to fail now would be a disappointment?
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    We sometimes find that a pronoun that is the subject of a subordinate clause
    takes the objective form based on an immediately preceding verb or preposition,
    rather than according to the pronoun's subject function within the subordinate clause.
    In the case of "You want him to be prime minister":tick:, this "subject in object form" is correct in standard English.
    But in the similar case of sentences like "This is for whomever wants it":cross:, it's an error.
    That said,
    "You want whom be the next prime minister?" and "For whom to fail now would be a disappointment?",
    although grammatically "correct",
    both sound stilted to me, in the same way that "Whom are you talking about?" does.
    On this forum there is much discussion on the obsolescence of "whom" in English.
     
    Last edited:

    Sarp84224

    Senior Member
    Learning English
    We sometimes find that a pronoun that is the subject of a subordinate clause
    takes the objective form based on an immediately preceding verb or preposition,
    rather than according to the pronoun's subject function within the subordinate clause.
    In the case of "You want him to be prime minister":tick:, this "subject in object form" is correct in standard English.
    But in the similar case of sentences like "This is for whomever wants it":cross:, it's an error.
    That said,
    "You want whom be the next prime minister?" and "For whom to fail now would be a disappointment?",
    although grammatically "correct",
    both sound stilted to me, in the same way that "Whom are you talking about?" does.
    On this forum there is much discussion on the obsolescence of "whom" in English.
    Why is “This is for whomever wants it” wrong?
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Why is “This is for whomever wants it” wrong?
    "wh... wants it" is a subordinate clause. The subject of that clause (since it's a pronoun) goes in the subject form.
    The object of the preposition "for" is not just the following pronoun;
    instead, it's the whole clause (with its subject in subject form).
     
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