In a relative clauses, how do who and whom work? In the two examples below, which is right, who or whom?:
Fewer tragedies would occur if people (who, whom) take chances would stop.
People seem to think that they might be the next ones (who, whom) misfortune strikes.
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This is a great question. Relative clauses can be hard, but if you know the basic principles, you will get the hang of it in no time. There are two important point to remember.
First, the case of relative pronoun (whom, who, which whose, etc.) is determined by its function in the relative clause not its function in the sentence.
Second, the antecedent of the relative pronoun matches in number (singular or plural).
In the first sentence, the correct answer is "who." The reason for this is because "who" acts as the subject of the relative clauses. The verb is "takes." In the second sentence, the answer is "whom," because it is the object of the relative clause. The subject is "the next ones" and "misfortune" is part of the object and the verb is, "strikes."
By far the most important point to remember is the first one.
This is unrelated to your original question, but is another grammatical correction to point out, and has to do with "less" versus "fewer."
The word "fewer" is typically used when the nouns in question can be counted. "Less" is reserved for nouns which cannot be counted. For example, "Today, I have fewer pencils on my desk and less tape than I did yesterday." (The amount of tape cannot be counted numerically, as the pencils can.)
In your first example sentence, one of two changes could be made. Either: "Fewer tragedies would occur if people who take chances would stop," or, "Less tragedy would occur if people who take chances would stop."
The first example suggests the specific tragedies can be counted, therefore, fewer would occur if people would stop taking chances. The second example takes tragedy as a generality, and there would be less of it (generally speaking), if people would stop taking chances.
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