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Who is/Who are?

Forum > English only || Bottom

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Who is/Who are?
Message from milasha posted on 04-10-2014 at 20:07:26 (D | E | F)
Good evening
and thank you for your answers.
The boys are in the room.
a. Who is in the room?
b. Who are in the room?
Which of them/a or b/ is correct?

-------------------
Edited by lucile83 on 04-10-2014 20:49



Re: Who is/Who are? from sherry48, posted on 04-10-2014 at 22:28:37 (D | E)
Hello.

The subject, who, must agree with the verb. Is it singular or plural?

Regards.
Sherry



Re: Who is/Who are? from hushpuppy, posted on 06-10-2014 at 01:52:01 (D | E)
Hello,
Your question is not an easy one because the answer depends on knowledge. For instance, if you see a group of women at a restaurant, and you are curious as to who they are, you would turn to your friend and ask, "Who are they?". The reason is that you have the knowledge of how many people there are. If it was one woman, you would ask, "Who is she?". Therefore, when the knowledge is unclear, we default to the singular because there isn't a "he", "she", or "they" to refer to.
Hope that helps



Re: Who is/Who are? from notrepere, posted on 06-10-2014 at 02:56:18 (D | E)
Hello

According to Michael Swan "Practical English usage, Oxford 1995" when 'who' and 'what' are used to ask for the subject of a clause (as in this case), they most often have singular verbs, even if the question expects a plural answer.

The girls are playing outside. -> Who is playing outside?
John and Phyllis (they) are going to the theatre. -> Who is going to the theatre?

When "who" and 'what' are used to ask for the complement of a clause, they can have plural verbs.

Tom and Susan are my best friends. -> Who are your best friends?
Alex and Mary are my grandparents. -> Who are your grandparents?



Re: Who is/Who are? from violet91, posted on 06-10-2014 at 12:53:29 (D | E)
Hello ,
Or you will find a plural when you want to know the identity of a true complement :
- Who(m) are you buying this for ? - for my best friend .
- Who(m) are your children spending their holiday with ? - With their grandparents .
- Who(m) are students examined by ? - by a jury .
Have a nice day .



Re: Who is/Who are? from melmoth, posted on 06-10-2014 at 13:04:34 (D | E)
Hello,
To sum it up : when who is the subject of the sentence, the verb is in the singular.
In the examples given by notrepere, who is the attribute of the subject : who are his parents? His parents are dentists. The subject is 'his parents', who is attribute, the verb 'are' is in the plural because the subject is plural.
Similarly in the cases quoted by violet, where who is a complement.
In all cases, the verb accords with the subject.
Best regards.




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