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September 17, 2004

Comments

Matt

I agree with you on your "whomever" analysis, but "it was her" is perfectly legitimate in modern English. "Who did this?" "It was her". Sounds natural to 99% of native speakers, and native speakers (as a hyperconnected simultaneous mob-clan! tipping point etc!) make the rules.

belle waring

you're right, matt. I don't even say "it is I" if someone asks me who's there. so maybe that wasn't a good example. I've just thought about this a lot because when you have to translate from English into a language that has inflected case endings (as Latin, Greek, Russian etc. do) then you have to figure out what case the English word corresponds to.

jdw

"Us folks" is clearly just a clever troll, or else I'd comment.

Doug M

Thanks Belle -- I've often wondered about those pronouns that, sitting between two clauses, get pulled in both grammatical directions. Your answer sounds right.

Here's my own favorite English grammatical construction: "Those books that I don't know where I put them belong to John."

Back to your point, though: "Whoever I kill comes back to life" -- right or wrong?

Fontana Labs

Damn, that post was hot.

ben wolfson

Doug, I think that should be "whomever".

LizardBreath

Belle-

I'm sure you've read this Daniel Davies post: http://d-squareddigest.blogspot.com/ on why he was right about the war while so many other sensible people were wrong, but anyone who hasn't should. It's a perfect, clear summary of a couple of rules of thumb for evaluating arguments that would have kept you from making the reasonable errors you made.

LizardBreath

Goddam, that was supposed to be a comment to the Iraq post. Sorry -- I'll copy it over to the right place.

belle waring

Doug--I vote for "whomever". this is partly because the word immediately precedes the verb whose object it is ("kill"). But also, I think in this sentence "whomever" is the antecedent of a suppressed pronoun "he" which is the subject of the main verb "comes back to life." i.e., the "whomever" could logically be expanded to he, whom I kill [whoever he is], comes... etc." when I was a kid I really liked diagramming sentences.

bryan

whatever*.


*had to.

Anthony

Belle, you really should have done Linguistics, and then you could use terms like trace and theta role. Also you would be able to diagram sentences until you didn't enjoy it anymore.

Thea_Fenchel

The Language Log has had a good series of posts on Who/Whom... you might start here.

Eva

It is clearly "whomever I kill" (...).

However, as a native German speaker (and having taken Latin for six years in high school), I believe that there is *no* good way in the English language to state a universally applicable rule for this that is valid *and* usable by someone who only speaks English, OTHER THAN John's (fantastic) rule to convert the subordinate clause in question to a regular sentence with subject, predicate, object and replace "who(m)" with the applicable personal pronoun (e.g., "they", or "them", he or him, etc). If in the conversion you use the nominative (I, they) --> use "who" in the subordinate clause. If the conversion uses the dative/accusative (him, them) --> use whom in the subordinate clause.

John's first example - and the ensuing "I am she/her" debate - both happen to use a conjugation of "to be" as the predicate. "To be" is one of the few verbs that "require" (ask for) the nominative (first case, or "I", "they" form) in the associated object, and this is the reason why "I am she" is grammatically correct (though colloquially unfamiliar).

Eva

It is clearly "whomever I kill" (...).

However, as a native German speaker (and having taken Latin for six years in high school), I believe that there is *no* good way in the English language to state a universally applicable rule for this that is valid *and* usable by someone who only speaks English, OTHER THAN John's (fantastic) rule to convert the subordinate clause in question to a regular sentence with subject, predicate, object and replace "who(m)" with the applicable personal pronoun (e.g., "they", or "them", he or him, etc). If in the conversion you use the nominative (I, they) --> use "who" in the subordinate clause. If the conversion uses the dative/accusative (him, them) --> use whom in the subordinate clause.

John's first example - and the ensuing "I am she/her" debate - both happen to use a conjugation of "to be" as the predicate. "To be" is one of the few verbs that "require" (ask for) the nominative (first case, or "I", "they" form) in the associated object, and this is the reason why "I am she" is grammatically correct (though colloquially unfamiliar).

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