A blog on reading, writing and life

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Whom should we killed? We should kill "Whom"

The more I learn about linguistics, the more illogical clinging to grammar “rules” seems. Let’s take whom for example. I understand how to use it and what distinguishes it from who, but I still never used it myself. A brief refresher: who ask what the subject of the sentence is, (“Who threw the ball? Jane threw the ball.), while whom ask what the direct object of the sentence is (Whom did the ball hit? The ball hit Tom.). 

Why do I never use whom? Because I don’t think about whether what I'm talking about is a subjects or a direct object. In English, the only time we make a grammatical distinction between the two is with certain pronouns, which is why English teachers will suggest trying to answer the question with he/him or she/her. (Who threw the ball? She threw the ball. Whom did the ball hit? The ball hit him.) But it isn’t natural to convert what you’re talking about into a pronoun in the heat of conversation. 

In Standard English*, we always make a distinction between possessive nouns and subjects, which is why Standard English natives never mistake whose and who (No one would ever ask “Who ball is this?” when the answer is “It is Jane’s ball”). 

The reason why I was thinking about this is because I'm learning Latin, which always make a distinction between nouns in that are the subject of the sentence and nouns that are direct objects (plus several more distinctions that are totally foreign to me). But it seems natural for a language like that to have different question words for who and whom since the role that a noun is performing in the sentence is an inherent part of the noun. But in English, imposing this rule just seems forced and archaic.

*Black English Vernacular has different usage regarding possessive nouns. It’s not wrong; it’s just different. Remember kids, grammar rules are inherently classist!