My friend Joseph E. Badger recently raised an interesting question about a persistent usage issue: Is it who or whom? (Joe is an internationally known accident deconstructionist and a topnotch writer who has had over 100 articles published in Law and Order magazine, Accident Reconstruction Journal, Accident Investigation Quarterly, and others.)
The sentence is about a video you’ve probably seen recently: Police officer Michael Rapiejko used his cruiser to run over suspect Mario Valencia in Marana, Arizona. According to police chief Terry Rozema, that decision probably saved the suspect’s life. (You can see the video below.)
Here’s the sentence that Joe asked about:
In this video there is a pedestrian who I believe is carrying a gun (or at least I hope so).
Joe’s question: Should it be “who I believe” or “whom I believe”?
My answer: The correct choice is who.
If you read the sentence aloud, you’ll notice that “I believe” is sort of an aside. (Some English teachers would call it an “interrupter.”) So we could add a couple of commas, like this:
In this video there is a pedestrian who, I believe, is carrying a gun (or at least I hope so). CORRECT
Now it’s much easier to choose the correct word. A trick I use is to plug in he and him. If he sounds right, use who. If him sounds right, use whom.
So: he is carrying a gun…who is carrying a gun.
One more comment: “Whom” is disappearing from the English language. If you’re one of the people who still use it, you run the risk of sounding artificial or affected. (Hmmmm – I used it just yesterday!)
In a few years, whom will probably be gone for good, and we’ll all be able to stop worrying about whether to use who or whom. I’m one person who thinks that’s good news.
My thanks to Joe for providing a provocative issue for this post!
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