Lessons from Bremner
This is the third lesson. Click here for the second, here for the first.
(This is going through a sentence on Bremner's editing test.)
2. The grand marshal gave his councel to whoever sought it.More tomorrow.
BREMNER: Councel -- Counsel, of course.
Now, this is a democracy. We vote on everything. Is it whoever or whomever? How many want whomever? Well, that's great. You're wrong.
Pronouns agree with their antecedent in person, number and gender, but they take the case from the clause in which they stand. What?! You have to define seven or eight terms there. I'll give you a gimmick in a minute, but if you're going to go through it grammatically, here's the way to do it.
Pronouns agree with their antecedent ... How many persons in the English language? As many as you like. Infinity. Well, how many numbers in the English language? As many as you like. I don't know.
How many cases? Don't ask me what a case is or how many cases there are in the English language.
Let's try gender. How many genders in the English language? Let's try it on you, Teach. Professors, how many genders are there in the English language? Two, the man says. Three, over here. Any advance on three, or decline therefrom? Four?
Four is correct, OK. Don't say, "Hell, no." Four genders in the English language. Masculine, feminine, neuter (this typewriter, neuter). What gender is this word teacher? Professor? Student? Pupil? Parent? Child? Pilot? Is it masculine? No. Is it feminine? No. Is it neuter? Neither? No. It's common. Common gender. Go look it up. I didn't
Back to the sentence: Whoever and whomever. We've got the four
genders. OK. What's the subject of the verb ... sought? Who! You wouldn't say him sought it. See it?
What's the object of the preposition to? The whole clause, the whole clause. Not whomever. The whole clause: Give it to Charlie, give it to whoever wants it! It's the subject of the verb.