It’s Who You Know

Who was the name of a rock group from the sixties and seventies that included Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend.  Or should it be: Who was the name of a rock group from the sixties and seventies who included Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend?  When do you use who and when do you use that? 

The rule is easy to remember.  Who is a human being (or beings).  Use who when referring to people and that when referring to animals or objects.  Here are some examples: 

The man who would be king

The little boy who cried wolf

The lion that roared

The horse that won the race

The author who wrote the novel

Cheri, who never cared much for dogs, now has a poodle she loves.

 

As always, there are exceptions in usage.  Some grammarians accept that for human beings when the reference is general rather than specific, such as: I can’t stand women that never need to diet.  Most agree, however, that it’s preferable to say:  I can’t stand women who never need to diet. 

Also, who is often used in referring to animals that are treated as personalities.  It’s safe to go with the rule that who is used to refer to people, and that refers to everything else. But what about the Who?  Is rock group a human being or a thing?  Although rock groups, with a few exceptions, are made up of human beings, group is a thing.  Therefore Grammar Cop says, The Who was the name of a rock group from the sixties and seventies that included Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend.

Bonus tip: The objective form for who is whom and should be used as illustrated in the following examples:

To whom it may concern, your company’s product is defective.

The memo should be read only by the party to whom it’s addressed.

The wedding dress fit perfectly since the original bride, for whom it was designed, was the same build and size.

To whom should I address my question?

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “It’s Who You Know

  1. Nice review. I do find that whom used in dialogue sounds contrived, unless a well-educated person is speaking. I have probably heard whom used in general conversation less than a dozen times in my life.

  2. I learned years ago that “that” is not grammatically incorrect when referring to a person — just impolite. As for “who” and “whom” — I just don’t see the need for the two pronouns. Even when “whom” is used correctly, it sounds stilted and pretentious. I just wish it would go away.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s