This is a spin-off from:

The difference between 'who' and 'whom'

where (among other things) the sentence

1. '*Whom was given the book?'

was discussed.

I understand that in AmE, this sentence is acceptable:

2. Whom did you give the book?

If 'whom' is acceptable in #2 for 'to whom', is 'whom' acceptable in #1 for 'to whom'? If so, is #1 acceptable as an inversion, with 'book' as subject?

3. 'Whom (IO) was given the book (S)?

i.e. 'the book was given to whom?'

Just curious.

1 2 3 4 5
*Whom was given the book?

The syntactical subject of passives usually take the direct object, which is in an accusative case, changes it into the nominative case. In the sentence, " the book" is not the subject but the direct object. The construction doesn't have an overt subject (null subject). The active construction reads:

1. (null)-subj gave-V [the book]-DO [to-P whom-IO]?

This construction is fine:

2. Who was given the book?

The problem in the sentence above is clearly one of a case mismatch. "Whom" is a rare word that still retains its dative case marking. When fronted as the subject of the passive, it cannot be in the dative case but in the nominative case.

Hello eq

Thanks for that – I'm actually looking at a slightly different question here.

In another thread, it was pointed out to me by an AmE native speaker that 'Whom did you give the book?' was an acceptable AmE form.

This intrigued me, as in BrE, you would say 'To whom did you give the book', or 'Who did you give the book to?', but not the sentence above.

It occurs to me that if you can say (in AmE) 'Whom did you give the book', you should also presumably be able to say (in AmE) 'Whom was given the book?', where the sentence is taken as an inversion with the subject (book) at the end.

I myself cannot 'hear' 'Whom was given the book?' as a grammatical sentence. However, I'd be interested to know if anyone else can.

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Dear Mr. P,

I speak American English and even I say "to whom did you give the book" or "who did you give the book to"
Maybe my leg was being pulled, Julielai.

It does happen.

What a pity.

In another thread, it was pointed out to me by an AmE native speaker that 'Whom did you give the book?' was an acceptable AmE form.

ME, Mr. P. I said it! Emotion: smile But I said nothing about "Who/whom was given the book?", that I recall (Alzheimer's?).

Maybe I went too far. I haven't done a survey or anything. It's just that it sounds fine to me, and I speak AmE!

If "whom" can be either accusative or dative, then it should be able to stand on its own in either case.

I invited John. You invited whom? Whom did you invite? (Who did you invite?)
I gave John the book. You gave whom the book? Whom did you give the book? (Who did you give the book?)

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Thanks, CJ! How about in the sentence in the subject box? Can you hear that with 'whom' as dative and 'book' as subject?

(I'm just curious as to whether 'dative whom' is strong enough to carry inversion.)

Whew! I can hear it that way if I try hard, but I like the surface subject of a passive sentence to be as much a nominative as the surface subject of an active one.

Accusative: *Whom was invited? Dative: *Whom was given the book?

And also: *To whom was given the book? But "To whom was the book given" seems OK.

The one I should probably find acceptable -- "*Whom was the book given?" -- I don't! Go figure!

Thanks for that, CJ!

I can only hear 'book/subject' if I keep repeating it to myself. After a while, it all starts to sound vaguely Anglo-Saxon.

Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more