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Hi,

One of my students wrote the following sentence in an essay earlier this week:

"[…], and it affects the speaker whom speaks the language"

I must admit that I struggle a bit with the use of who/whom in this context, even though I thought I knew the rules for this quite well. Would you say that this use of "whom" is correct since "the speaker" can be said to be the object in the sentence?

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Hello, EngTeach, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

@EngTeach posted:

One of my students wrote the following sentence in an essay earlier this week:

"[…], and it affects the speaker whom speaks the language"

The use of "whom" is incorrect there. The object of "affects" is "the speaker ...," but inside the relative clause you need a pronoun in subject, not object, position:

- ... and it affects the speaker who speaks the language (the speaker speaks the language).

"whom" can be used only if it functions as an object inside the clause:

- ... and it affects the speaker whom you speak to (you speak to the speaker).

@EngTeach posted:

 Now I think I will manage to give a good explanation though. 

Hello, EngTeach, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

I completely agree with Gustavo's answer. One good way to explain this, apart from focusing on the clause within which the relative pronoun is used ("who speaks the language"), is to relate the point to personal pronouns and case.

Pronouns have case, subjective or objective. Subjective-case pronouns (like he, she, we, I, they—and who) are used in subject position, and objective-case pronouns (like him, her, us, me, them—and whom) are used in object position.

To decide whether subjective-case who is needed or objective-case whom, we can form a sentence related to the relevant clause and substitute a personal pronoun. It will be obvious whether subjective or objective case is needed.

[relative pronoun] speaks the language
subjective case: He speaks the language.
objective case: *Him speaks the language.

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