by Jennie Ruby
Who's Who books do have their grammar right. The proper usage is Who is who. But wait, you might be thinking, just last week, Jennie, you were telling us that we use who as the subject and whom as the object. Isn't the second who in Who is Who an object?
If you can ask that question, you have reached at least the intermediate level in the game of correctly choosing between who and whom. At this level, we must distinguish between action verbs and nonaction, or linking, verbs. The verb to be and all its forms, including is, are, was, were, will be, has been, and all the other forms for the 12 tenses, is a linking verb. It links a subject to one of three things: an adjective describing that subject, a phrase identifying the current location of that subject, or a noun or pronoun that refers to the same person or thing as the subject.
That last situation pertains to the who is who situation. When a linking verb links a subject to a noun or pronoun, it is almost as if that sentence has two subjects. Here is an example:
The instructor is Jennie.
In this sentence the instructor and Jennie are actually the same person. In a manner of speaking, then, this sentence has two subjects. You can actually mix and match the two subjects by reversing them, like this:
Jennie is the instructor.
So if a pronoun is in either of the noun positions in a sentence with a linking verb, the pronoun uses its subject form.
She is the instructor.
The instructor is she.
Old King Cole was a merry old soul.
A merry old soul was he.
And since the word who is a pronoun, it uses its subject form in either position:
Who is that?
That is who?
And, of course,
Who is who?
One thing to remember for these examples: there are no additional words after the word who at the ends of these sentences. If there are words after the word who, then you must enter the advanced level in the who vs. whom game. We'll go there next time.
Are you an eLearning developer who has been tasked with creating an effective voiceover script? If so, consider attending my Writing Effective eLearning Voiceover Scripts class. I also teach the Writing Training Documents and eLearning Scripts class.
About the Author: Jennie Ruby is a veteran IconLogic trainer and author with titles such as "Editing with Word 2003 and Acrobat 7" and "Editing with MS Word 2007" to her credit. She is a publishing professional with more than 20 years of experience in writing, editing and desktop publishing.