On the front page of today’s Montreal Gazette there is an article about yesterday’s protest at McGill University. Concordia and McGill students decried the schools’ administrations lack of action on sexual misconduct accusations. Clearly an issue of great importance.
But let me disrupt your thoughts on these allegations for a moment and turn to another important issue; grammar. The photograph above accompanied the front page story. What caught my eye was the poster asking “Who are you protecting”. Aside from the lack of a question mark, I wonder if “Whom are you protecting?” would have been a better choice.
In the 1950s Johnny Carson hosted a game show called Who Do You Trust which is often cited not just for Johnny’s witty retorts, but for the grammar question.
Now, I am far from a grammar expert, but the folks at Grammar Matters provide this explanation:
Rewrite a simple sentence, using he or him in place of who or whom, and rephrasing the sentence appropriately. For instance, “Who do you trust?” may not sound wrong to you. But “Do you trust he?” certainly does. You can see that it would be “Do you trust him?” so you know it should be “Whom do you trust?”
So, “who are you protecting” becomes “are you protecting he?”Nope, that’s not it. “Are you protecting him?” makes a better sentence, which means whom is the way to go. As a graduate of McGill I can only hope the holder of the poster is a Concordia student!