Another Who-Whom Lesson

Maybe it’s a subordinate clause lesson, because that’s the key here.

From the June 2021 Scientific American, page 62:

In Lisbon, Portugal, the social centers Disgraça and RDA69,
which strive to re-create community life in an otherwise highly
fragmented urban situation, reached out with free or cheap food
to whoever needed it. (probably a paywall)

Last line. Shouldn’t that be “to whomever…”? After all, “to” is a preposition, so we should use the objective case, right? Nope.

Here’s the rule:

  • Go from the inside to the outside.

What’s inside the prepositional phrase? A noun clause! And “who” (well, “whoever”) is the subject of “needed,” so it gets the nominative case!

So there you have it. Sometimes you can say “to who.”