Word Confusion: Whoever vs Whosoever vs Whomever vs Whosever

Posted October 13, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 13 October 2017

Choosing between who- and whoso- versus whom- is definitely tricky. The key is to remember that whoever and whosoever form the subjective case and are used in the subject position in a sentence when a verb is conjugated or includes a linking verb. Whomever forms the objective case and is used in the object position in a sentence: the object of the verb or the preposition. Whosever is used in the possessive case.

The Subjective Whoever, Whosoever

If the verb in the sentence has a tense, then it must have a subject, which means that word is always in the nominative/subjective case, so it’s whoever or whosoever.

Test For It

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the subjective pronoun + verb
  2. Coral indicates the subjective pronoun + linking verb
  3. Pale green indicates the subject of the clause stays with the clause
  4. Blue indicates the verb to which whomever is the object
  5. Purple indicates the preposition to which whomever is the object

You can use one of several ways to decide if you should use whoever or whomever:

  1. Slip in the I, he, she, we, they and the me, him, her, us, them and see which suits best, or
  2. Determine if whoever or whomever is the subject or object in the sentence, or
  3. The subject of a clause is always attached to that clause — no matter what, or
  4. Chicago suggests a trick: switch whoever with anyone who (“who”) and anyone (“whom”), or
  5. Substitute the personal pronouns noted in the table below — you may have to rewrite the sentence as part of the test
Choose Which Best Suits…
Nominative,
a.k.a., Subjective Case
Objective Case
Subject of a sentence with a conjugated verb Object of a verb or preposition
who/whoever = I, he, she, we, they whom/whomever = me, him, her, us, them

[You] give the correspondence to she.

Give the correspondence to whomever.

[You] give the correspondence to her.

Whoever brought these brownies to the party should be commended!

He brought these brownies to the party. He should be commended!

Him brought these brownies to the party. Him should be commended!

I decided to vote for whoever called me first.

…he called me first.

I decided to vote for him called me first.

Give it to whoever deserves it.

“[You] give it to he who deserves it” or “he deserves it.”

“[You] give it to him who deserves it” or “him deserves it”.

Whoever wants it can have it.

Filling in the elliptical clause, it becomes “he who wants it, he can have it (joining these two simple sentences is one of those comma splice exceptions).

[Him] wants it, [him] can have it.

Whoever is hungry can have the leftover pizza.

[He] is hungry.

[Him] is hungry.

Give the package to whoever comes for it.

[You] give the package to him [he comes for it].

[You] give the package to him [him comes for it].

I am happy with whoever wins.

I am happy with him [he who wins].

I am happy with him [him who wins].

Give the book to whoever wants it.

[You] give the book to him [he wants it].

[You] give the book to him [him wants it].

Ask whoever reads that book to answer the question.

[You] ask him [he reads that book] to answer the question.

[You] ask him [him reads that book] to answer the question.

Kate marries he

Whomever Kate marries is none of our business.

Kate marries him

You choose he

Please invite whomever you choose.

You choose him

Dale selects she

I am eager to work with whomever Dale selects as my partner.

Dale selects her

Human Resources recommends he

Whomever Human Resources recommends as a consultant, we will still need to interview him or her.

Human Resources recommends him

Jon introduces me to he

I will be glad to meet whomever Jon introduces me to.

Jon introduces me to him

Other “Who” Posts

To avoid confusions, there are other posts that explore the who versus … question, including:

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Whoever vs Whosoever vs Whomever vs Whosever” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

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Whoever Whosoever Whomever Whosever
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: whoever, whomever, and whosever; Collins Dictionary: whosever; Chicago 5.63

Cover for the book Whoever You Are

Book cover courtesy of Goodreads and Mem Fox

Mem Fox’s Whoever You Are embodies whoever as the any body.


Biblical quote...that whosoever believeeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life...

Biblical quote courtesy of The Quotepedia

It’s another anybody, but certainly more formal sounding.


xx

“Trapping Police” is courtesy of Police Meme, via Instagram.

It’s a polite request, asking “whomever is setting these traps…”, lol.


Cartoon of girl looking at a bed piled high, high, high with junk

“Messy Room” is courtesy of Shel Silverstein, via Natural Disasters and Astronomical Events

“Whosever room this is should be ashamed!” is the first line of Shel Silverstein’s poem.

Part of Grammar:
Subjective Pronoun; Compound Relative Pronoun

Also who ever

Compound Relative Pronoun Objective Pronoun;
Compound Relative Pronoun
Possessive Pronoun; Compound Relative Pronoun
Whoever is one who acts and is the:

  • subject of a verb
  • subject complement with linking verbs, such as is, are, and will be

If using in an emphatic sense, whoever may also be spelled who ever


Pronoun:
Used for emphasis instead of who in questions, typically expressing surprise or confusion

  • Used to express astonishment, disbelief, disdain, etc.

Relative Pronoun:
The person or people who

  • Any person who
  • Regardless of who

Whatever person

  • Anyone that

No matter who

[Literary contraction] whoe’er

Formal term for whoever Whomever is acted upon


Chiefly formal or literary


Used instead of whoever as the object of a verb or preposition
Rare form of:

  • [Casual] whoever’s
  • whose ever
  • of whomever

[As adjective] Belonging to or associated with whichever person

The one or ones belonging to whomever

Examples:
Pronoun:
Whoever would want to make up something like that?

I won’t do it, whoever asks.

Whoever does he think he is?

Who ever does he think he is?

Relative Pronoun:
Whoever did it should be proud.

Ask whoever is there.

Come out, come out, whoever you are.

Whoever did it hated him.

They have a belief that whosoever steals shall be blinded.

“…knighthood ennobles, inasmuch that whosoever is a Knight, it necessarily follows that he is also a gentleman…” – Sourindro Mohun Tagore, The Orders of Knighthood, British and Foreign: With a Brief Review of the Titles of Rank and Merit in Ancient Hindusthan

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god” (Brainy Quote). – Aristotle

Tell it to whomever you like.

She questioned whomever she met.

Whomever she spoke to, she was invariably polite.

I’ll hire whomever I can find.

I’ll sing whatever I like to whomever I like.

The choice, whosever it was, is interesting.

She dialed whosever number she could still remember.

Whosever wagon this is, get it out of here.

Whosever is this ridiculous hat?

Whosever will win, do you think?

Whosever book you use, you must take care of it

History of the Word:
Late Old English, 1125-75, hwa efre. First known use: 13th century Middle English, 1300-50. 1730-40

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Resources

Business Writing Blog

Grammarly.com has a useful post using the pronoun test, “Whoever vs Whosoever vs. Whomever“, on determining whether one should use whoever or whomever.

Pinterest Photo Credits:

Canvass For Cause Street C is Xyxyboy’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license is the whoever, the any body; I see Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a trailer screen shot in the public domain, as whosoever, a more important any body; and, “Bell Telephone Magazine” (1922) from Internet Archive Book Images with no restrictions is my concept of whomever, are all via Wikimedia Commons. The possessive whosever reminded me of Regan from The Exorcist, the child possessed by Satan, courtesy of Ruth Halkon’s article, “Live Exorcism to be Held at House From Cult ’70s Horror Movie The Exorcist“, 31 July 2015, via the Mirror.


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