Who vs. That vs. Whom

“Who” is a pronoun used as a subject to refer to people. “That” is a pronoun used for things or groups. When used as an object, “who” becomes “whom.”

Examples:

John is the person who brought in the kolaches today. (not “that”)

These are the kolaches that John brought.

This is the team that ate all the kolaches. (not “who” because it is a group)

These were not the people whom John intended to feed. (not “who” — it is an object)

What is a kolache, you ask? (pronounced coal-AH-chee)

Kolaches are Czechoslovakian pastries with a big glob of sweet fruit or cheese on top or with meat and/or cheese rolled up in it. These are popular in Texas, which has a sizeable Czech population. Of course, we Texans like to put jalapeños in our meat and cheese kolaches. Now I’ve got a big hankerin’ for some – and I bet y’all do, too!

9 Responses to “Who vs. That vs. Whom”

  1. Christina Says:

    Your description says: “WHO” is a pronoun used as a subject to refer to PEOPLE.

    So why when referring to PEOPLE in the statement: These were not the PEOPLE WHOM John intended to feed, WHOM was used?

    • petrocomputing Says:

      Dear Christina:
      “Whom” is used as an object to refer to people, whereas “Who” is used as a subject to refer to people. This is in contrast to “that,” which is not used to refer to people, but to things. Hope that clears things up a bit.

  2. orangelady Says:

    i am having trouble with this sentence – “my bigoted family manages to offend pretty much every one of my friends that they encounter. sorry in advance. don’t visit me; i’ll visit you.”

    is this grammatically incorrect? thank you.

    • petrocomputing Says:

      Dear Orangelady:
      “My bigoted family manages to offend pretty much every one of my friends WHOM they encounter.”
      Here’s the reasoning:
      Presumably your friends are people (could be animals, but rarely are they offended, especially dogs).
      For people, the pronoun is Who-based, not That-based or Which-based.
      Next, we need to figure out if these people are subjects (who) or objects (whom) of the verb “encounter.”
      Since “they” are doing the encountering, and “they” refers to the bigoted family, then we need the objective form, which is “whom.”

      It would also be correct — and shorter — to say:
      “My bigoted family manages to offend pretty much every one of my friends they encounter.”
      Brevity is good; besides, then you don’t have to worry about the that/who/whom decision.

  3. ln Says:

    We appreciate each of our volunteers that has assisted for many years in our health screening. Is “that” correct in this sentence or should it be “whom”, and why?

    • petrocomputing Says:

      Volunteers are people, not things, so use “who” instead of “that.”
      We appreciate each of our volunteers who assisted for many years in our health screening.

  4. Because “That” Gets Tired From Overuse | Hope Fully Known Says:

    […] a whom or a who be better? (Read this, it will help a […]

  5. Richard Dowsett Says:

    Grammar check in Word wanted me to change the “who” to a “that” in the following phrase. Any ideas why?
    “one person in your life who would NEVER lie to you”

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