Using who/whom in passive voice.

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Daimon
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Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby Daimon » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:04 am UTC

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Last edited by Daimon on Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:52 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby firechicago » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:12 am UTC

Daimon wrote:I'm only a native English speaker; I go by, for the most part, what sounds correct. Now, I know how to use whom correctly, and have done so for the past few years. However, whenever I use passive voice, the sentence just does not sound right. For example:
Whom I talked to. - Sounds correct. (Let us ignore the fact that I could have said, "To whom I talked." I still end in prepositions when in conversation.)
Whom was talked to. - Does not sound correct
Who was talked to. - Sounds more correct.
To whom was talked - Is this all right?

So, my question is: "When using passive voice, do you use who or whom?"
I might have not used a very good example.


The rule here is quite simple, "who" is used for the subject of the verb, "whom" is used for the object. The whole point of a passive verb is it swaps the subject and object. So "whom I talked to" is correct because "I" is the subject and "whom is the object of "talked to". And "who was talked to" is correct because "who" is the subject of the passive verb "was talked to."

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby Daimon » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:39 am UTC

The way it was explained to me was as follows, "If they are doing something, use who; if something is being done to them, use whom." Hence why it sounded confusing to me in passive voice.

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby Toes_of_Krosa » Sun Sep 16, 2012 4:26 am UTC

Alright, so here's the problem. You're example of "Who/Whom was talked to" is confusing. This is because "talked to" is a phrasal verb, and there it has issues with the passive voice.

Let's put this in a sentence: "The person who/whom was talked to didn't know the answer to the question." Now let's correct the error of ending the relative clause with the preposition "to": "The person to who/whom was talked didn't know the answer to the question." You might notice that doesn't sound right; that's because it's not. When organized correctly, it becomes clear that the relative clause has no subject, and therefore is not grammatically correct. This is a problem caused by the fact that phrasal verbs have no passive voice, and many people don't understand this because of the initial error of ending the clause with a preposition. Note that some consider it acceptable to end a clause with a preposition in cases like this, thus giving phrasal verbs a passive. I personally do not subscribe to that philosophy, but I can see reasons why some do.


Now that I've cleared that up, let's take a verb that actually has a passive, "ask", for example. I'll even use a similar sentence: "The person who/whom was asked did not know the answer to the question." Now it becomes clearer that "who" is the correct form and not "whom", as it is, in this case, the subject of the passive verb. It will usually be true that in the case of a passive verb, the pronoun will be the subject, as verbs in the passive voice have no direct objects. I hope this helps clear things up, and if anyone is still having trouble, would like to correct me on something, or disagrees with something I have written simply post it.

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby Derek » Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:26 am UTC

firechicago is right. "Who" and "whom" are based on grammatical role, not agency. The agent is the thing doing the action, the patient is the thing the action is done to. In English these usually correspond to subject and object, but the passive voice reverses this (agent is object, patient is subject), and some verbs are naturally take a patient subject (at least when intransitive).

Who was talked to. - Sounds more correct.
To whom was talked - Is this all right?

I would say the second sentence is outright ungrammatical. It has no subject. The first sentence is correct. This is a good example of why the rule about ending sentences with prepositions doesn't work.

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby eSOANEM » Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:45 am UTC

The who/whom distinction is identical to the he/him distinction so you can use that as your guide.

Because of this, I'd use who and argue that, whilst, semantically, "who/he" is the object of "talked to", syntactically it is the subject of "is".
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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby skullturf » Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:05 pm UTC

Exactly. It's like

"I was talked about by Fiona"
"He was talked about by Fiona"
"Fiona talked about me"
"Fiona talked about him"

Grammatically speaking, "I" and "he" are the subjects in the first two sentences, and "me" and "him" are the objects in the last two sentences. Grammatically, we don't care about the "physics" of the situation (for lack of a better word). It's the structure of the sentence that's important, not the real-life distinction between actor and recipient.

The rule actually isn't "Always use 'me' if something is being done to you." We don't say "Me was talked about by Fiona."

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Sep 16, 2012 9:55 pm UTC

Toes_of_Krosa wrote:Alright, so here's the problem. You're example of "Who/Whom was talked to" is confusing. This is because "talked to" is a phrasal verb, and there it has issues with the passive voice.
Firstly, it might be a good idea to proofread your grammar pedant posts, so you don't start right off with "you're" instead of "your" and look like an idiot.

Secondly, "talk to" is not a phrasal verb, it's a verb with the preposition "to" before the recipient of the talking.

Note that some consider it acceptable to end a clause with a preposition in cases like this, thus giving phrasal verbs a passive. I personally do not subscribe to that philosophy, but I can see reasons why some do.
When it's part of a phrasal verb, it's a particle, not a preposition. Even people who ascribe to the never-actually-practiced-in-spoken-English "rule" that you can't end a clause with a preposition usually understand this distinction. Thus, "Which radio did he put the book on?" is considered by these people to be grammatically incorrect, while, "Which radio did he turn on?" is fine.

And there's also nothing wrong with passive uses of true phrasal verbs. "The radio was turned on," is a perfectly fine sentence, because as mentioned before, "on" is not a preposition in this sentence.
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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby Toes_of_Krosa » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:26 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
\Toes_of_Krosa wrote:Alright, so here's the problem. You're example of "Who/Whom was talked to" is confusing. This is because "talked to" is a phrasal verb, and there it has issues with the passive voice.


Firstly, it might be a good idea to proofread your grammar pedant posts, so you don't start right off with "you're" instead of "your" and look like an idiot.

Secondly, "talk to" is not a phrasal verb, it's a verb with the preposition "to" before the recipient of the talking.

Note that some consider it acceptable to end a clause with a preposition in cases like this, thus giving phrasal verbs a passive. I personally do not subscribe to that philosophy, but I can see reasons why some do.
When it's part of a phrasal verb, it's a particle, not a preposition. Even people who ascribe to the never-actually-practiced-in-spoken-English "rule" that you can't end a clause with a preposition usually understand this distinction. Thus, "Which radio did he put the book on?" is considered by these people to be grammatically incorrect, while, "Which radio did he turn on?" is fine.

And there's also nothing wrong with passive uses of true phrasal verbs. "The radio was turned on," is a perfectly fine sentence, because as mentioned before, "on" is not a preposition in this sentence.


First of all, thank you for catching my your/you're error; you're right, I should proofread my posts (on that topic, I meant for "there" in that sentence to be "therefore"). I also appreciate you telling me that "talk to" is not a phrasal verb; upon looking back, I noticed that I had misread the dictionary I was using, and I have now checked with multiple dictionaries: "talk to" is certainly not a phrasal verb. Which, by the way, makes it an even worse example for figuring out whether "who" or "whom" should be used in the passive. Verbs alone can take the passive voice.

With that out of the way, I don't think I agree with your belief that phrasal verbs have no problems with the passive. Take, for example, "see through", as in, "He saw through her lies and deception." Trying to change it to the passive would yield, "Her lies and deception were seen through." I don't think this sentence is proper English, as firstly it becomes unclear whether it's "see [something] through" as in to complete thoroughly or the aforementioned phrase. Secondly, "through" has no object. In your example of "turn on", the "on" by itself is the adverbial "on", and therefore would not normally have an object. In a case like that, I can see perfectly well why the passive would work. However, in a case like "see through", I believe "through" must have an object, as it is in innate nature a preposition.

Again, correct me on any mistakes I've made, as I would much rather be proven wrong than left wrong. Also, if anyone still has any questions on the original topic, merely ask.

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:38 am UTC

Toes_of_Krosa wrote:However, in a case like "see through", I believe "through" must have an object, as it is in innate nature a preposition.
No, it isn't. To see something through, in the sense of completing it, requires no object for the particle "through".

The object in the sentence, "She saw the project through," is of the whole phrasal verb "see...through". If we add another object just for "through" in particular, then we change the meaning, as in, "She saw the project through the window."
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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby firechicago » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:49 am UTC

Through is also used completely without any object in the phrasal verb "come through" as in "When did that call come through?" Not sure why that case should be any different.

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby eSOANEM » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:44 am UTC

Toes_of_Krosa wrote:With that out of the way, I don't think I agree with your belief that phrasal verbs have no problems with the passive. Take, for example, "see through", as in, "He saw through her lies and deception." Trying to change it to the passive would yield, "Her lies and deception were seen through." I don't think this sentence is proper English, as firstly it becomes unclear whether it's "see [something] through" as in to complete thoroughly or the aforementioned phrase. Secondly, "through" has no object. In your example of "turn on", the "on" by itself is the adverbial "on", and therefore would not normally have an object. In a case like that, I can see perfectly well why the passive would work. However, in a case like "see through", I believe "through" must have an object, as it is in innate nature a preposition.


Take the verb "to put up with".

He put up with her behaviour.
Her behaviour was put with by him.

Both are fine. The second might not be used as much (but this is because the passive is less common generally) but there is nothing wrong with it.
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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby Toes_of_Krosa » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:39 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Toes_of_Krosa wrote:However, in a case like "see through", I believe "through" must have an object, as it is in innate nature a preposition.
No, it isn't. To see something through, in the sense of completing it, requires no object for the particle "through".

The object in the sentence, "She saw the project through," is of the whole phrasal verb "see...through". If we add another object just for "through" in particular, then we change the meaning, as in, "She saw the project through the window."



That's not what I was saying. I was saying "see through" as in seeing through deception or some such thing. In the example I'm using, it is a preposition in innate nature. In fact, I now realize that because "through" can be an adverb, using one with it isn't the best example.


eSOANEM wrote:Take the verb "to put up with".

He put up with her behaviour.
Her behaviour was put with by him.

Both are fine. The second might not be used as much (but this is because the passive is less common generally) but there is nothing wrong with it.



Thanks eSO, "put up with" is a much better example. What I was saying is that my personal belief is that your second example sentence is grammatically incorrect. Because whether or not "with" is a particle when part of the phrase, it is innately a preposition, and therefore I think it needs to have an object. I would understand this being debatable, but I don't think I'm just flat out wrong. Maybe I am, but I don't believe so. I think that like the way gerunds can have objects even though they mostly behave as nouns prepositions in phrasal verbs must have objects whether or not they're particles.

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:16 am UTC

Toes_of_Krosa wrote:prepositions in phrasal verbs must have objects whether or not they're particles.
No, because if they're particles, they're not prepositions at all. The phrasal verb as a whole may or may not have an object, but its particle by itself is incapable of having one, because that's not the sort of thing particles do.

Consider, for example, every intransitive phrasal verb.
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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby Toes_of_Krosa » Thu Sep 20, 2012 10:13 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Toes_of_Krosa wrote:prepositions in phrasal verbs must have objects whether or not they're particles.
No, because if they're particles, they're not prepositions at all. The phrasal verb as a whole may or may not have an object, but its particle by itself is incapable of having one, because that's not the sort of thing particles do.

Consider, for example, every intransitive phrasal verb.



I'll say that again more clearly:
I believe that particles in phrasal verbs that are alone prepositions must have objects, and for that reason "transitive" phrasal verbs can not be used in the passive voice.

I understand that you disagree, but that is my personal belief. If you can confirm that this is wrong using a good amount of reliable sources, that would be great, and I'd love to be proven wrong and gain the knowledge of what's right. Otherwise, I say we just leave it at being debatable.

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby goofy » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:10 pm UTC

Toes_of_Krosa wrote:I'll say that again more clearly:
I believe that particles in phrasal verbs that are alone prepositions must have objects, and for that reason "transitive" phrasal verbs can not be used in the passive voice.


So these are ungrammatical?

The project was seen through.
The phone number was looked up.
Messages were taken down.

According to Huddleston and Pullum in A Student's Introduction to English Grammar, particles are a subclass of prepositions that can freely come between the verb and its object, and that do not take complements (although many prepositions proper don't take complements either).

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Re: Using who/whom in passive voice.

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:14 am UTC

Toes_of_Krosa wrote:I believe that particles in phrasal verbs that are alone prepositions must have objects
This is clearly not true on its own, because there are intransitive phrasal verbs which have no objects of any kind.

and for that reason "transitive" phrasal verbs can not be used in the passive voice.

I understand that you disagree, but that is my personal belief. If you can confirm that this is wrong using a good amount of reliable sources, that would be great
Here is a list of occurrences of "was/were turned on" followed by punctuation (meaning they're all at the end of clauses, with no subsequent object for "on"). Here's a similar (and larger) list for "turned off". Also taken down and turned down. And heck with it, a big old list of every instance on COCA of "was/were [past participle] [preposition] [punctuation]".

If you mean something other than how people actually use English when you say "reliable source", please elaborate.
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