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I'm a longtime professional copy editor with a fairly firm grasp of English usage, but there's one thing that's always stumped me:

Is "whoever" or "whomever" appropriate when it separates two clauses and serves as both the object of the first clause and the subject of the second clause? Here's an example:

"Love is unique to (whomever/whoever) is giving or getting it."

I've never known the right answer to this, and it drives me nuts. Please explain if you know the answer. Thanks.
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Evan GibbardPlease explain if you know the answer.
OK. Here's the rule.

Ignore its function in the main clause. Choose according to its function in the subordinate clause.
End of story. Emotion: smile

Love is unique to whoever is giving or getting it.

Compare:

Give it to whoever wants it.
Give it back to whomever you got it from.
We went to visit whoever was at home.
We warmly greeted whomever we invited.
Let's make friends with whoever laughs first.
Tell the news to whomever you meet.
Tell the news to whoever seems eager to hear it.

CJ
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Evan GibbardIs "whoever" or "whomever" appropriate when it separates two clauses and serves as both the object of the first clause and the subject of the second clause? Here's an example:

1. "Love is unique to (whomever/whoever) is giving or getting it."

The answer is "whoever", because "whoever" does serve as the subject of the second clause.

Also, use the (he/him)(she/her) test. He is giving or getting it.

2. The boss will choose whomever he wants to choose.

The boss wants to choose her. It's another way of saying that "whomever" is not the subject of the second clause.
How can a preposition have the subjective form of a word as its object? This seems counterintuitive to the point that I wonder if such constructions are inherently flawed and can't properly take a pronoun by itself. I typically rewrite these constructions to include a proper object — "Give it to whoever wants it" becomes "Give it to the person who wants it." If the subjective pronoun really is acceptable on its own, I could really use some more justification.
Evan GibbardHow can a preposition have the subjective form of a word as its object? Again, it's because the object of the preposition is also the subject of the second clause.

Maybe it was an arbitrary decision made by grammarians. Perhaps it was decided that the subject function trumps the object function. Also it is said that "whom" and "whomever" are only surviving in formal writing.

This seems counterintuitive to the point that I wonder if such constructions are inherently flawed and can't properly take a pronoun by itself. I think most would accept the situation as proper.

I typically rewrite these constructions to include a proper object — "Give it to whoever wants it" becomes "Give it to the person who wants it." One potential problem with that is that maybe more than one person wants it; so you would at least have to say something like 'person(s)'

or, more formally, 'person or persons'. Saying "whoever" is easier.

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canadian45it is said that "whom" and "whomever" are only surviving in formal writing.
OK, that's close to the line in a discussion about proper English usage. As far as I've noticed, "whom" is alive and well in everyday conversation among conscientious English speakers. Replacing it with "who" is analogous to replacing "me" with "I," which only worked for Bob Marley. To accept "who" as an objective pronoun is to accept the unnecessary degradation of the language.
Evan GibbardHow can a preposition have the subjective form of a word as its object?
I just answer the questions. I don't justify the rules. If you expect every rule to be justified, you're asking for a lifetime of disappointment. Language is not mathematics. Standard historical practice trumps mathematical or logical precision. Emotion: wink

CJ
Evan GibbardOK, that's close to the line in a discussion about proper English usage. As far as I've noticed, "whom" is alive and well in everyday conversation among conscientious English speakers. Replacing it with "who" is analogous to replacing "me" with "I," which only worked for Bob Marley. To accept "who" as an objective pronoun is to accept the unnecessary degradation of the language.
In retrospect, probably I should have omitted the comment about the possible demise of those object forms in at least some aspects of English. I am not advocating for that to happen.
Perhaps my point related to the relative strengths of the subject and object forms in the English language overall. The subject form seems to be more important than the object form when they are in direct competition.

Regarding your original question, you just have to accept that "whoever" wins out over "whomever".
No one is advocating that "I" should replace "me".
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canadian45The subject form seems to be more important than the object form when they are in direct competition.
All right, I'm satisfied. Sorry for being antagonistic. I just wanted to be sure. Thanks for your help.
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