Who and how to use it correctly: grammar

The other main use of who and its derivatives is to create relative clauses:

These are the people who work upstairs.

This is Tom who believe you have already met.

I helped the boys whose car broke down.

The right form for non-people is one that, although it can be used as possessive in relative clauses, even for non-people: I'll have to repair a car whose engine I broke.

In restrictive relative clauses, when they are not preceded by a preposition, both who (m) and which can be replaced by this, or (if this is not the subject of the sentence) by zero. In relative sentences, which (like other relative pronouns) adopts the number (singular or plural) of its predecessor. Who also takes the person (first, second or third) of his predecessor:

I, who have difficulties now, will not be able to help you.

I, the tired old man who is fed up with all your crap, refuse to help you.

Who and who can also be used to create free relative clauses (those without predecessors). To this end, emphatic forms are often used: informal: I will take anyone you choose; formal: I will take anyone / anyone you choose. This is equivalent to using what (ever) refers to non-people. (For the choice between who (ever) and who (ever) in formal English, see ยง Ambiguous cases below.)

Strong forms can also be used to create adverbial clauses, because in Whoever you choose, I will be pleased.

A typical statement of the usage guide regarding the choice between who and who says that the choice must be determined by the grammar of the sentence in which the pronoun occurs. Who is the right form for the topic of the sentence or clause: Who are you? The voters who chose him were not disappointed. Who is the objective form: who did you ask? Who are we obliged to for this help? This method of choosing the right form is generally characteristic of formal writing and is usually used in the editing of prose.

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However, in most statements and writings, because who or who often occurs at the beginning of a sentence or sentence, there is a strong tendency to choose who does not matter what function it performs. Even in edited prose, which occurs at least ten times more often than anyone, regardless of grammatical function. Only when the preposition comes immediately is it more likely to occur than who: Mr. Erickson is the man to ask for.

In natural informal speech, which is quite rare. With who did you talk? is much more likely than "right" Who were you talking to? or who did you talk to? However, the belief that who is somehow more "correct" or elegant than who leads some speakers to improper hypercorrection: Who are you? The responsible person has left the office.

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Who or who Question is even grammar lovers. And in many circles that are becoming obsolete, which can sadden grammar purists.

Although who and who are similar to each other, each serves a separate purpose. To understand how to use these pronouns correctly, you need to refresh yourself in the structure of sentences.

Once you discuss and compare some examples, you'll be able to remember how easy and who to use.

The basic parts of the sentence are subject and predicate. The predicate must contain a verb, but it can also contain an object.

The subject is a person or thing that works. The verb describes the action. The subject is a person or thing for which a verb or preposition works.

Of course, sentences can get a lot more complicated. But this is the basic structure of the sentence.

In English, the standard order of a sentence or statement is the subject - verb - subject.

Tyrone bought a pizza.

Maria likes Jorge.

My children are watching TV.

The Kahdim are my neighbors.

Our boss called the police.

We will come back to these sentences further, explaining who versus who.


Who is the pronoun that replaces or refers to a single or multiple object of a sentence. Who can be used in a question or statement.

This famous book title by Stieg Larsson includes:

"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest"

"A couple who left the Caribbean cruise in the viral movie celebrated their honeymoon"

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Here are some other examples of how Who is used in a sentence:

Who are you for?

I wonder who's at the door.

Who wants to swim?

Tell me who did it.

Now let's return to our original examples and use who will formulate the question from each sentence.

Who bought the pizza? (Who replaces "Tyrone").

Who likes Jorge? (Who replaces "Maria").

Who is watching TV? (Who replaces "my children").

Who are your neighbors? (Who replaces the "Kahdims", subject - not "neighbors", subject).

Who called the police? (Who replaces "our boss").

We continue this idea and develop original examples in statements that relate to or directly answer the above questions.

I never found out who bought the pizza.

I don't care who likes Jorge.

Tell me who's watching TV!

I didn't ask who your neighbors are.

I know who called the police.

In summary, who replaces or refers to the topic of the sentence.


Who is a pronoun that replaces a single or multiple object of a sentence. Who can you use in your question or statement.

One of the best known uses of this classic title is Ernest Hemingway:

"To whom the bell tolls"

Now look at this headline:

"The singer for whom the words always appeared first"

You'll probably feel the difference between who and who, even if you can't put your finger on it.

In these two examples, followed by a preposition, but this is not always the case. A preposition is not necessary for a direct object.

You'll also notice that followed by a clause (a sentimental phrase containing both the subject and the verb).

Let's look at the use of who in the sentence. Here are some examples:

Who am i talking to

Who are you calling?

Don't tell me who to spend time with!

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Who did you dance with

Who did the factory rent?

I have no idea who I'm going to marry.

Who is he standing by?

Let's return to our original sentences. We will develop one of them:

Maria likes Jorge.

My children are watching TV with Nana.

To turn these sentences into questions, look at the different uses of who and who.

Who likes Jorge?

Who does Maria like?

Who is watching TV with Nana?

Who do your children watch TV with?

Who is watching TV with your children?

Who is Nana watching TV with?

In summary, who replaces or refers to the verb or preposition object.

Modern application of who

In today's casual conversations you'll hear:

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Who do your children watch TV with?

Who did Tyrone buy a pizza for?

This is one of those habits of lazy grammar that becomes marginally accepted in speech and even in some writings. But if you want to be taken seriously and cleverly meet with writing, it is always better to use who when you need it.

In fact, the New York Times dealt with who, who is laziness, or maybe ignorance, in a 2015 blog. It would be good to follow their example.

How to use who and who correctly

Both pronouns can be used in questions or statements.

Who replaces the subject of the sentence.

Which replaces the subject of the sentence.

An easy way to determine if you should use who or who should check if he or he matches a sentence. (Of course, she and her work too, but he and he sound more like who and who, so it's a simpler test.)

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He bought this book. > Who bought this book?

He bought this book. > No!

I gave him a book. > No!

I gave him a book. > Who did you give the book to?

In free speech and writing, which becomes somewhat outdated. But for formal speech and writing, always use it when it is needed.

Remember that if you develop a story character that is young or has no advanced education, your character will probably not be rushing with someone in his dialogue.

If you write anything else, stick with whom ... so that the bell does not beat your reputation.

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