I think this thread should be re-opened:

The "duplicate thread" doesn't seem to have an answer to the OP's question.

I think that "closed" thread poses an example that is grammatically interesting, and maybe not so easy to explain.

I've already voted for it to be re-opened, so that ELU members who are interested in English grammar can try to answer the OP's question.

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    @F.E. +1. I thank you effusively for your support.
    – user50720
    Jul 9, 2014 at 10:55
  • Rolling back all the transformations is not that difficult, and that shows why whom is grammatically incorrect. Don't be surprised, btw -- lawyers don't study grammar in law school. They learn to cite and quote and not to criticize the judge's grammar. Jul 9, 2014 at 16:08
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    @JohnLawler Google books: try "whom we suspect are" versus "who we suspect are" (845 v 460) - small minority are partitive, very few are law. A general Google of same terms: 1,550, 000 v 54, 600- staggering. If the rule doesn't describe what people do, then ... Ngram won't even appear for the former but gives small figures for the latter (may all be partitive - who knows). Shakespeare, Dickens, Samuel Butler and many more have all used whom for subjects extracted from complement clauses embedded within RCs. ... Jul 9, 2014 at 17:51
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    @Araucaria: Suspect has nothing to do with whom usage; it's just one verb of thousands that can take a complement clause. If you're talking about the common usage of "whom" to make a sentence sound more formal, are you suggesting that that is the new standard and therefore the old rule is in abeyance? You may be correct, which is why I always recommend that no one ever use whom at all, and therefore avoid such constructions in the first place. Jul 9, 2014 at 17:57
  • @JohnLawler I don't disagree with you about suspect and whom in particular. However, you seem to imply that everyone writing anything that ends up on Google is trying to sound more formal when they use certain verbs like "suspect" - not entirely convincing, might be considered a rather under-substantiated conjecture. You don't comment on the Shakespeare or Dickens btw. The main points I want to make here are grammatical and are in the next comment ... Jul 9, 2014 at 18:07
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    @JohnLawler More importantly, as I commented and Janus posted, this 'nominative' pronoun can be omitted (without auxiliary be), which does not fit with nominative who. Lastly, in several languages the extracted pronoun in these situations appears to take the case that a pronoun would if it occurred alone at the original site without the rest of the relative clause. This doesn't appear, after some admittedly cursory investigation, and according to Janus' comments, to be optional. In English there's no way to tell, because who readily occurs as either subj or obj ... (grossly oversimplified) Jul 9, 2014 at 18:24
  • It depends on what structure is being accessed. There are two stacked subject clauses, paraphraseable as You owe a duty to [the-people (such) [that [for the-people to be harmed] is likely] is foreseeable]. You can extract the relative pronoun from the subject of the infinitive clause, or from the subject of the tensed clause, depending on what intermediate transformations are performed. Since nobody usually keeps track of those, one winds up with a questionable structure no matter which one is picked. So, I repeat, don't use whom. Jul 9, 2014 at 18:40
  • @JohnLawler That comment would be useful posted at the OP's original page. There are simpler, non-extraposition structures which may follow the pattern described above: eg We don't like the people whom we have long suspected ___ are eating all the pies. Re the advice, not useful for analysis alone - but (imo) very, very good advice!! Jul 9, 2014 at 19:07
  • Yes, well, I missed the original and it's closed and I've posted it here. If that makes it hard to find, that's the breaks. There's certainly no way to make it easy to find. Jul 9, 2014 at 19:31
  • @JohnLawler Thanks to F.E., yourself and others, the post is now open! Jul 10, 2014 at 7:13

1 Answer 1


I can be pretty ruthless about closing duplicates, but I think this question should be reopened. The "he/who, him/whom" rule ultimately provides the answer here, but the sentence being analyzed in the newer question is a convoluted one, and requires some untangling before it's clear how the rule should be applied.

The rule I try to follow when closing as duplicate is "Will the person asking this question receive a full and useful answer over at the other question?" Here, the asker explicitly stated that they consulted the other question first and that it didn't provide a satisfactory answer, and it's not hard for me to see why that would be the case. Remember, duplication is not necessarily bad:

Quite the contrary — some duplication is desirable. There’s often benefit to having multiple subtle variants of a question around, as people tend to ask and search using completely different words, and the better our coverage, the better odds people can find the answer they’re looking for. And isn’t that, really, the whole point of this exercise?
  • +1. I thank you effusively for your support.
    – user50720
    Jul 9, 2014 at 10:56

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