Choosing whether to use whoever vs whomever can be understandably confusing. To give you the answer right off the bat, whoever is used as a subject pronoun, while whomever is used as an object pronoun.
Whoever is the same as the other subject pronouns like he, she and they, while whomever is the same as him, her and them. Despite differing by just a letter, they are not interchangeable.
Why Use Whoever or Whomever
Whoever and whomever, as well as their root words who and whom, are often used when the speaker does not know the identity of the subject or object of a sentence. Oftentimes, who and whom are used to specifically determine the identity of the subject or object. On the other hand, whoever and whomever are used to emphasize the action, rather than the identity of the doer/receiver.
If the whoever vs whomever distinction is important to your writing, then continue on to know how to correctly use them.
Difference between Whoever vs Whomever
When to use Whoever
Whoever is a subject pronoun, which means to say that it is used to refer to a person who is performing an action. As a quick reference, when you are trying to refer to someone that is doing some specific action, you should use whoever.
- Whoever made this soup is a great chef.
- Whoever drank my juice should pay for it.
This usage of whoever is quite obvious. Whoever is typically at the beginning of the sentence, as are most subjects in a sentence. However, there are instances when it can be used in the middle of the sentence.
- Check back on whoever made that report.
- We should get whoever is available right now.
In these cases, we have to look closely at the clause that it goes with. If the clause demands a subject rather than an object, or if it requires a doer of an action rather than a receiver of an action, then you should use whoever.
When to Use Whomever
Similarly, whomever follows the same rules, but instead as an object. If you are trying to refer to someone who is receiving some specific action, you should use whomever.
- The team will take in whomever the president chooses to be the leader.
- I will reject whomever you recommend to me.
These are straightforward usages of whomever as an object. However, there are also instances where you can use whomever as a subject. Again, the key here is to look at the clause that it comes with. If it requires a receiver of an action, then you should use whomever.
- Whomever you choose is not my problem.
- Whomever they elect should be responsible.
This case is admittedly convoluted, and can be more confusing. A good point to note is that in these cases, there is actually a different noun or pronoun that acts as the actual subject of the clause (you in the former, they in the latter). Since there is a subject already, you would need to use an object, which would be whomever.
Substituting Whoever vs Whomever
A simple way of knowing which one to use is to substitute whoever or whomever with he/she/they who or him/her/them who, respectively. The idea is to be able to identify the subject and object of any given sentence.
If the sentence sounds better with he/she/they who, then you can use whoever for that sentence. It’s also true the other way around, for him/her/them who with whomever.
- He who made this soup is a great chef. (use whoever)
- The team will take her who the president chooses to be the leader. (use whomever)
It’s not a perfect way of determining when to use whomever or whoever, since it only works if you’re using them as in the first cases presented (as subject for whoever, as object for whomever). However, it is plenty for the most basic situations where you might be confused.
Rewrite if You Have To
Of course, you don’t have to torture yourself with these grammatical gymnastics. If you find yourself totally confused on how to use whoever vs whomever, then it’s perfectly fine to rewrite the sentence to avoid using those words. If you don’t feel confident writing using these words, feel free to change up even the entire sentence if you have to.
- The person who made this soup is a great chef.
- The team will take in anyone the president chooses to be the leader.
Whoever is Reading This Has Reached the End
By the time you’ve read this section of the article, you should have learned how to properly use whoever and whomever. We personally admit that it is indeed a confusing topic to tackle, so we did our best to simplify it for you. Now, you can go ahead and focus on your manuscript without worrying of misusing these words. Don’t forget to check on LivingWriter, the best writing companion that grows and evolves with you, the writer.