Whom/ Who are you calling/ ringing up?

I would really like to know how I can use this question correctly: ‘Whom/ Who are you calling/ ringing up?’
Can I say: Who are you calling to?
Thank you in advance for your time!

Just say
Who are you calling?
Who are you ringing?

Those would be the most natural expressions of that question.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Antonella:

The moderator has already given you the answer.

I just wanted to add a few thoughts.

If you have a strict teacher, you will probably want to use “whom” on a test.

“___ are you calling?”

Put the sentence into regular order for the sake of analysis (NOT for speaking!), and you get:

“You are calling ____?”

As you know, one needs the objective form after a verb. Thus, you need “whom,” not “who.”

Because I am a very old man, I try to use “whom” (at least in writing), but – as the moderator said – it is natural nowadays to use “who.” Even newspapers usually use “who” in such sentences.

But if you write something for the university, I personally hope that you will use “whom” in such sentences.


Thank you, James. I was remiss in not making that clear.

I do second your view, James. That is the fact where (at least here) English is taught/learned as a foreign language. We cannot take such ‘natural’ things for granted and adopt them for university examinations where all the evaluators need not always know what the native users might try to declare as ‘natural’.

A native’s natural use of the language is different from a foreigner’s formal use of it.

(‘Bye’ for the time being. I’ll be off to the capital and back in a couple of days)

Thank you, Beeesneees! You are of great help! Thank you again.

In telephone conversations I would expect someone to ask: Who’s calling, please? Or Who do you want to speak to? I can’t honestly accept: Whom do you want to speak to? and James, remember I am even older than you! And what’s all this got to do with a university? Do they live in another world? A sense of proportion, please.

Many learners don’t learn for the sake of academia. They want to use English in the real world.

I respectfully disagree, but I thank you, Alan, for allowing me to air my suggestions on your website.

So long as you allow me to be a member, I shall try to be very honest and sincere in my suggestions. (Since the member who posted this question did not appreciate my suggestions, I – of course – will not reply to any more of his / her questions.)


Hello Antonella,

In reply to your query, the four experienced wonderful moderator and mentors gave their invaluable thoughts. I would personally thank EACH OF THEM!

… and from their interesting ideas I arrived at a conclusion that “whom” is formal whereas “who” is natural/informal in such cases.

 Hello, James M!

I have learned from a number of English grammar books that the modal shall
is mainly used in British English and unusual in American English. However, I have been observing you use shall rather than will in your speech. Does “book English” not coincide with the real language or … ? Could you give your opinion on this matter?

  By no means whatsoever.. Your replies and suggestions have always been highly appreciable for learners of English (including me). Those thorough suggestion and answers which characterize your style are of REALLY GREAT HELP for us.   I hope you will not be tired of replying and giving your interesting ideas! 


***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Foreigner.

Thank you for your especially kind comments.

A famous English gentleman named Henry Fowler (who published a book on “good” English in 1926) wrote that the use of “shall” and “will” is “so complicated that those who are not to the manner born can hardly acquire it.”

He meant that the only people who could ever know how to use those two words correctly were people who had been born into a family where the words were used in a natural manner every day.

Well, very few Americans come from such families, so I, too, always used “will” – except for those few natural exceptions such as: “Shall we dance?” and “It’s very hot. Shall I turn on the a/c?”

About 20 years ago (?) I started reading about the “correct” use, and I said to myself: That’s great!

So that is why I WRITE “I shall.” And that’s why I WRITE, “I shan’t.”

If I SAY “I shall,” most Americans will not necessarily notice or care. But if I SAY “I shan’t,” most Americans will look at me strangely. They might ask: “What’s wrong with you? Are you trying to sound British?” So in conversation, I do not have the courage to say “shan’t,” but I think that it has a nice ring to it.

Well, I shan’t (!) bother you further except to say: You would probably be wise to say and write “I will” and “I won’t” when communicating with Americans. Maybe our British friends will add their comments.


P.S. I know how serious a student you are, so I must warn you NEVER to say “shan’t” to an American. Americans think that a MAN who says “shan’t” is not, well, completely masculine!