Whoever or Whomever?

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Whoever or Whomever?

What is the difference between "whoever" and "whomever"?

In order to know the difference between "whoever" and "whomever," you must know the difference between a subject and an object in grammar. Don't worry if you don't. It is easier than it sounds, and you already make this distinction with pairings like "he/him" and "they/them." Well, "whoever/whomever" is no different.

whoever or whomever?

"Whoever" Is the Subject of a Verb

"Whoever" is like "he" and "they." All three words are used as the subjects of verbs.

Look at these example sentences with "whoever":
  • Whoever answers the next question wins the quiz.
  • (Here, "whoever" is the subject of the verb "answers.")
  • Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping. (Actress Bo Derek)
  • (In this example, "whoever" is the subject of the verb "said.")
  • Whoever controls the media and the images, controls the culture. (Poet Allen Ginsberg)
  • (Here, "whoever" is the subject of the verb "controls.")
In each of these examples, the word "he" would work with the verb ("he answers," "he said," "he controls").

"Whomever" Is an Object

"Whoever" is like "him" and "them." All three words are used as objects.

Look at these example sentences with "whomever":
  • The witch will choose whomever she wants.
  • (Here, "whomever" is the object of the verb "choose." In this case, it is a direct object.)
  • Tell whomever your story.
  • (Here, "whomever" is the object of the verb "tell." In this case, it is an indirect object.)
  • Give it to whomever you think will use it most wisely.
  • (Here, "whomever" is the object of the preposition "to.")
In each of these examples, the word "him" would work ("choose him," "tell him," "to him"). The word "he" would not ("choose he," "tell he," "to he").

Read more about the objects of prepositions.
Read more about objects.

More about "Whoever" and "Whomever"

This sentence might help with understanding the difference between "whoever" and "whomever":
  • Whoever likes me, and I like whomever.
Remember that the pairing "whoever/whomever" is just like the pairings "he/him" and "they/them." For example:
  • He likes me, and I like him.
  • They like me, and I like them.

"Whomever" Is Not Posher Than "Whoever"

Don't use "whomever" because you think it makes you sound more educated. (You can only use "whomever" when it's an object, i.e., not the subject of a verb.)

"Whomever" Is Not British English

The distinction outlined on this page is true in the US and the UK. Using "whomever" is not a UK writing convention.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

bare or bear? tenant or tenet? What is the subject of a verb? What is an object? What is an object of a preposition? What are prepositions? What are pronouns? Who or whose? Who or whom? List of easily confused words