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I never understand the difference between these two. For instance:

1) It is Sarah who I think is the better of the two at badminton.
2) The boy whom I trusted proved honest.

For the first, why "who" and for the second, why "whom"? i know it has something to do with direct/indirect object, but i am still confused
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Hello, Kindaichi,

(1) Don't feel bad. Even native speakers are often confused.

(2) I understand it a little bit. So I am happy to share what I have learned.

(3) In your first sentence, the words "I think" are not really part of the sentence.

(a) The sentence is simply: It is Sarah WHO IS the better ....

(b) "I think" is just an extra comment.

(i) It is Sarah (I think) WHO IS ....

(ii) I think that it is Sarah WHO IS ....

(4) Your second sentence is a little more difficult.

(a) The "real" sentence is just: The boy proved honest.

(b) But you want to tell us more about "the boy."

(c) So you added an adjective clause.

(d) Which boy proved honest? Answer: WHOM I trusted.

(i) Yes, you are correct: I used "whom" because it is the direct object of the verb "trusted."

(a) Would you ever say, "I trusted HE"? Of course, not. You would say, "I trusted HIM." So you say, "I trusted WHOM" (not "WHO").

(b) The sentence is: The boy (I trusted whom) proved honest.

Then you put it in "correct" order: The boy whom I trusted proved honest.

Thank you.
In the first sentence "who" is used since it refers an agent, a person who
acts. In the second sentence "whom" is used because it's not the boy who
acts (trusts); instead, the boy undergoes the action, that is somebody trusts
him. This indirectness forces us to use "whom".

BTW, I heared an opinion, that if a sentence contains "whom", it had better
be rewritten, so that to use "who" instead.

--

Victor
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kindaichi000I never understand the difference between these two. For instance:

1) It is Sarah who I think is the better of the two at badminton.
2) The boy whom I trusted proved honest.

For the first, why "who" and for the second, why "whom"? i know it has something to do with direct/indirect object, but i am still confused

These rules cover almost all the cases you are likely to encounter.

1. Remove any extra introductory clause after who/whom such as I believe, you think, we know, if there is any. Usually there is none, but be aware that there may be one.

The man ___ I thought had given Mary the money was in the restaurant yesterday.
The plumber ___ you insisted I hire for the job admits that he overcharged me.
The boy ___ I trusted proved honest. [No extra introductory clause.]
It is Sarah ___ I think is the better of the two at badminton.

2. Ignoring those extra clauses,
If there is a pronoun or noun phrase after who/whom, use whom.
If there is a verb phrase after who/whom, use who.

The man ___ I thought had given Mary the money was in the restaurant yesterday. (verb)

The plumber ___ you insisted the Smiths hire for the job admits that he overcharged them. (noun)

The boy ___ I trusted proved honest. (pronoun)

It is Sarah ___ I think is the better of the two at badminton. (verb)

So the answers are:

The man who I thought had given Mary the money was in the restaurant yesterday.
The plumber whom you insisted I hire for the job admits that he overcharged me.
The boy whom I trusted proved honest.
It is Sarah who I think is the better of the two at badminton.
_____________

In short, the basic patterns are who + verb and whom + pronoun/noun.

the woman whom Larry loves
the girl who sleeps too much
the boy whom they invited
the friends whom they visited
the guy who won the money
_______________

In terms of subjects and objects, who is a subject.

Who had given Mary the money? The man had given Mary the money.
Who is the better of the two at badminton? Sarah is the better of the two at badminton.

And whom is an object.

I hired whom? I hired the plumber.
I trusted whom? I trusted the boy.

CJ
CJ, I did as you told me to, but when I did the exercises (Milon Nandy), I got wrong for these questions:

1) We met the man whom you say is good. - the answer is who
2) Who did you give it to? - answer is whom
3) I saw a woman whom they thought was dead. - answer is who

I cut out the introductory clause, but I did not do that for number 1 because I am afraid the sentence might not make much sense after you cut "you say" out.
kindaichi000,

The key is to recognize what role the pronoun plays in the sentence. If it's a subject, then it should be "who"; if it's an object then it should be "whom". Subject is somebody or something that acts. Object is a receiver of an action, somebody (or something) towards whom an action is performed.

X = who or whom:

* We met the man X you say is good. (X ... is good => X – subject => X = who)

* X did you give it to? (you give it to ... X => "You" – subject, X – object => X = whom)

* I saw a woman X they thought was dead. (X ... was dead => X – subject => X = who)

--

Victor
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kindaichi000I did not do that for number 1 because I am afraid the sentence might not make much sense after you cut "you say" out.
It doesn't have to make sense with words missing. You just remove those words temporarily in order to solve the puzzle.
kindaichi0001) We met the man whom you say is good. - the answer is who
We met the man ___ you say is good. who is. Yes. The answer is who.
kindaichi0003) I saw a woman whom they thought was dead. - answer is who
I saw a woman ___ they thought was dead. who was. Yes. The answer is who.

The two examples above fit the rules I gave you perfectly.
kindaichi0002) Who did you give it to? - answer is whom
All of your examples were cases where you had to find a relative pronoun. This example does not even have a relative clause, so the rules I gave you do not apply. Because you gave only examples of relative clauses, I believed you wanted a way to decide between who and whom for relative clauses.

As it turns out, who and whom are both regarded as grammatical in this case. whom is more formal than who. You did give it to whom is the base sentence. When you move the question word to the beginning you can leave it as whom or, less formally, change it to who.

CJ
I see, I understand now. The problem with me is that I tend to memorize instead of understanding the concept.
kindaichi000I see, I understand now. The problem with me is that I tend to memorize instead of understanding the concept.

In that case, Victor's remarks apply. Instead of memorizing the rules I gave, take Victor's advice and look at these from the point of view of how who and whom are used in the sentence -- whether you need a subject or an object.

CJ
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