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...it depends on whom you ask...

(12 Posts)
Jux Thu 24-Sep-15 21:47:23

I've just heard that on an advert. I'm sure that was what the voice over said.

It isn't right, is it?

DadDadDad Fri 25-Sep-15 13:02:37

I think it is correct, but it's accepted these days that "whom" is a bit formal, and it's become perfectly acceptable to say "who".

who is the equivalent of he (the subject)
whom is the equivalent of him (the object)
Here, they might add "you ask him" not "you ask he".

Jux Fri 25-Sep-15 13:56:51

I see. Thanks. I'm normally OK with who and whom, but this took me by surprise. I don't know why it sounded so wrong, as it seems perfectly OK reading it now blush

DadDadDad Fri 25-Sep-15 13:59:15

Probably sounded odd because we so often hear "who you ask", which is a problem for pedants, but fine for normal people. grin

Deianira Fri 25-Sep-15 14:41:51

The reason it sounds extra odd is because that sentence introduces an indirect question (i.e. there is a question being talked about by someone. If I asked my friend 'Where are you?' and you narrated this, 'She is asking her friend where she is', the part 'where she is' is the indirect question). In very many examples of this type of indirect question we continue to use who, not whom, because the 'who' is the subject of the verb in the question clause (so if my friend is male it's not 'where him was', as the indirect question starts a new subclause with its own verb, regardless of the fact that I am the subject of the whole sentence). So 'I asked that man who he was' is correct, because 'who are you' is the original question, and the 'who' is doing the 'are' verb.

However, in this instance, the 'who' (pronoun) isn't the subject of the question clause either, because if you took the question out of the sentence and made it direct (i.e. reconstruct what was actually asked), you get 'Who/Whom do you ask?' - since you are the subject, the person doing the asking, not the pronoun (who slightly complicates things here however because when we use it as an interrogative in a direct question word, we very rarely do the subject/object bit with it - even more rarely than outside of a question). Or to turn it third person to test it against the more familiar example - Do you ask him or her? not Do you ask he/she.

I recognise that this is probably way more detail than you wanted, but I hope it's vaguely interesting nonetheless, and makes sense!

holmessweetholmes Fri 25-Sep-15 14:46:53

Deianira - nice explanation! No such thing as too much detail in a grammatical explanation wink . I clicked on the thread hoping to offer an explanation, but there is certainly nothing more to add!

Jux Fri 25-Sep-15 14:47:17

It's very interesting, Deianira, thank you for the time you've put into it. I am going to have to go through it more slowly, but I did want to thank you first!

I am also racking my brain to remember more of the context. It was some announcer about Hollyoaks as I switched on for the News, so not very memorable.

Jux Fri 25-Sep-15 14:53:04

Holmes, feel free! The more explanations, the more likely it is that understanding will find it's way through the murk.

Jux Fri 25-Sep-15 14:54:28

"Is A going to do x, or will it be M? Well, it depends on whom you ask." It was something like that. I suppose part of it is that I feel it ought to have been " upon whom you ask" grin

ThenLaterWhenItGotDark Fri 25-Sep-15 17:12:15

It depends on isn't introducing an indirect question though. Is it? Not in the OP' s example.

howabout Fri 25-Sep-15 17:16:03

I think it should be "it is dependent upon" rather than "it depends on" but agree with pp that it is quite a clumsy form of phrasing in any event.

JessieMcJessie Mon 19-Oct-15 23:05:47

Wouldn't you just say "it depends who/whom you ask, rather than "on"or "upon"? Depending on is when you rely upon something, isn't it?

It depends what she is doing
It depends how long they will be
When will ther arrive? It depends if there is traffic.
Only one that is confusing me is "it depends on the weather" smile

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