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"Who", "Whom" or "Whose"

These three words are also called relative pronouns as they are able to take the place of a pronoun. Relative pronouns have caused lots of confusion among students. When do you use “who“, “whom” and “whose“? See the following examples:

  1. The boy who lives next door has a big mole on his face.
  2. The boy whom we just met has a big mole on his face.
  3. The boy whose father is a politician has a big mole on his face.

The underlined words describe which boy the speaker is talking about. Therefore, they are adjective clauses. Furthermore, all three sentences could be separated in order to explain the difference. Let’s use the same three sentences:

4. The boy has a big mole on his face. He lives next door.
5. The boy has a big mole on his face. We just met him.
6. The boy has a big mole on his face. His father is a politician.

Sentence #1 means exactly the same as Sentence #4,
Sentence #2 means exactly the same as Sentence #5, and
Sentence #3 means exactly the same as sentence #6

In Sentence #4, the pronoun “he” is the Subject of the sentence: “He lives next door.” Therefore, you have to use “who“.
In Sentence #5, the pronoun “him“, is the Object of the sentence: “We just met him.” Therefore, use “whom“.
In Sentence #6, the pronoun “his” shows possession. Therefore use “whose“.

Take Note:
Subject pronouns = he, she, it, I, you, we, they
Object pronouns = him, her, it, me, you, us, them
Possessive (adjective) = his, her, its, my, your, our, their

Elaboration (sentence pattern rule):

He lives next door. – “he” is the Subject of the sentence, so use “who
(S)   (V)

We just met him. – “him”  is the Object of the sentence, so use “whom
(S)           (V)  (O)

Remember this:
When you join sentences together using adjective clauses, you cannot simply join them with “who“, “whom” or “whose” immediately after your main sentences, so it is wrong to say:

  • The boy has a big mole on his face who lives next door. (X)
  • The boy has a big mole on his face whom we just met him. (X)
  • The boy has a big mole on his face whose his father is a politician. (X)

Practice:
Now try this. Join these sentences correctly with “who“, “whom” or “whose. I’ve underlined the subjects, objects and possessives to help you:

  1. The doctor is a well-qualified medical practitioner. He is wearing a thick pair of glasses.
  2. This dog comes from the dog pound. Its owner was a criminal.
  3. The old lady comes from a wealthy family. She owns two shophouses in the city.
  4. The girls have identical characters. Their parents are farmers.
  5. The three children were my neighbour’s children. The firemen rescued them.
  6. That elderly man is a college professor. I talked to him earlier.
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