Object of a Preposition (Who/Whom, If/Whether, Between You and Me, Me and My Wife)
The Quick Answer
- After a preposition, use whom not who.
- After a preposition, use whether not if.
- If you're going to say something like my wife and I, make sure it's the subject of your sentence, otherwise it should be me and my wife.
- You can't say between you and I. It's between you and me.
Object of a PrepositionThe words that follow a preposition are called the object of the preposition.
- The cat ran under the car. (The words the car are the object of the preposition under.)
- Can you give this parcel to him tomorrow? (The word him is the object of the preposition to.)
- Can you give the parcel to him? (He changes to him in the objective case.)
- I went to the cinema with them. (They changes to them in the objective case.)
- Andy saw the scouts, at least one of whom was armed, through the mist. (Whom – objective case after the preposition of)
- Against whom did you protest if there was nobody present? (Whom – objective case after the preposition against)
As covered in the lesson on prepositions, a preposition usually sits before a noun (i.e., a word like dog, man, house, Alan) or a pronoun (i.e., a word like him, her, which, it, them). This is worth knowing because the object of a preposition is always in the objective case, and pronouns change in this case. (That sounds really complicated, but it just means that he changes to him when you say something like next to him, and she changes to her when you say something like It's for her. In general, native English speakers have little trouble forming the objective case.)
Who and WhomThe problem seems to be with who and whom. These two words are no different from pairings like I/me, he/him, she/her, we/us, and they/them, but they are responsible for a lot more grammar mistakes.
The word whom is the objective case of who, and this pairing causes some confusion. (This is covered more in the lesson Who and Whom.)
should be "Two hits to whom?"
(grammatically dodgy joke in a university magazine)
WHOM AFTER A PREPOSITIONMany are unsure when to use who and whom. One thing is for certain: Always use whom after a preposition.
should be "by whom?"
- A decision about whether the elections were legal is pending.
- Will you raise the question of whether we are investing in the system or withdrawing?
See the lesson Whether and If.
- It is a present from my wife and me. (me – objective case of I after the preposition from)
- It is a present from my wife and I. (This is as wrong as saying from I.)
- Keep this between you and I. (This is as wrong as saying between I and the post.)
Remember, prepositions govern the objective case. Therefore, the word I must change to me when it is the object of a preposition (i.e., follows the preposition). The fact that it is preceded by you and or my wife and is actually irrelevant.
You should only use I in an expression like you and I when it is the subject of the verb. For example:
- You and I argue on this subject on a daily basis. (You and I — subject of the verb to argue)
- My husband and I accept your apology. (My husband and I — subject of the verb to accept)
If the terms objective case and subject of a verb are confusing, there is a neat trick to determine whether to use the you and I form or the you and me form. Simply remove everything apart from the I and try your sentence again. You will naturally use the correct version.
- It was proposed by my wife and I/me. Question: I or me?
- It was proposed by my wife and me.
- It was proposed by my wife and I.
Step 1: Remove my wife and
Step 2: Try the sentence again.
Step 3a: It was proposed by I.
Step 3b: It was proposed by me.