It’s time to address the elephant in the room: the word whomever, and its rampant incorrect usage. The linguists call it “hypercorrection,” using something that sounds more correct, but isn’t.
I used to think it was just people who were trying to appear smarter who used whomever, but the other day when I saw the word used incorrectly twice in one sentence in the newspaper, I thought, this problem has reached epidemic proportions!
It was something like “Whomever plans to run for office, and whomever needs to register to vote….” Are you kidding me? I know we’re just a small semi-rural area in the Midwest, but I do expect our reporters to understand the English language.
The fact is, whoever is the appropriate form when it is the subject of the sentence or clause. Whomever is the object form.
Some people seem to think that whomever lends dignity or formality, like Whereas in a proclamation. But “Whoever made this mess needs to clean it up” is correct, whether you’re talking about the kids in the kitchen or the politicians in Washington, D.C. So is, “I would like to thank whoever voted for that bill.”
Here’s an example of the incorrect usage of whomever that’s been weighing heavily on me for a while:
On an email from a fellow book-club member: “I wonder if I could trade with whomever is next.” The writer had good intentions and tbought she was using correct grammar. But she was hyper correcting.
Here are two examples of the correct usage of whomever:
“I will welcome whomever you invite to dinner.”
“Whomever the people choose will be our next representative.”
Still, while the grammar is correct, I would be perfectly happy with whoever in both cases. And I really wouldn’t mind getting rid of whomever altogether. It would keep things simple and solve the hypercorrection problem.
I hope that whoever is reading this will think twice before using the word whomever. Ever.