Who was OR Who were

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Who was OR Who were

Postby Reaperjim » 14 May 2012, 23:49

I just need clarification on a grammar point. As far as I know, if the answer to a Who question is a subject, we use Who was, even if the answer is plural e.g. Who was playing soccer?
If the answer is an object, it can be Who was OR Who were, depending upon whether we expect the object answer to be singular or plural in nature.
For some reason, Who were playing soccer? doesn't sit right, even if the answer is Bob and I were playing soccer.

I would love some clarification, and especially some links. I havent had any luck looking myself.
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby tommy525 » 15 May 2012, 00:04

"those who were playing soccer yesterday..."

"whoever he was who was playing soccer yesterday...."
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby Teddoman » 15 May 2012, 00:27

Aren't there words that for grammar purposes are singular, even if their meaning is plural? I suspect who is one of those words.

"Who were" or "who are" sounds wrong to me.

I'm blanking on an example though.
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby Tempo Gain » 15 May 2012, 00:38

I can think of one correct example:

"Who were the Romans?"

Of course though there's a plural complement there. When there's not, as in "Who were there?" "Who were arrested?" or the OP's "Who were playing soccer?" it does sound strange. Not sure about a definite answer. I feel like I can imagine saying it if it were definitely known that multiple people were involved, and I was simply confirming their identities, perhaps because I hadn't heard clearly.

"MMslsen and jnnnnnt were there."

"WHO were there?"

I think it's safe to say "Who was..." is normally used in such cases though.
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby Teddoman » 15 May 2012, 01:43

"Who were playing soccer" sounds wierd, but maybe that's because the subject has been omitted

"Who were the people playing soccer?" sounds perfectly fine to me.

So for some unknown reason, omitting the subject in the singular case doesn't sound wierd ("who was playing soccer?"), but it does sound wierd in the plural case
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby jimipresley » 15 May 2012, 01:49

"Wierd" sounds weird. :D
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby Reaperjim » 15 May 2012, 07:49

Who were the Romans has an object answer ex. The Romans were a great empire.
Same goes for Who were the people playing soccer.
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby Teddoman » 15 May 2012, 08:23

Found a discussion of this by googling +who "subject questions"
http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2053226

Didn't see anything too definitive, just lots of guesses
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby PigBloodCake » 15 May 2012, 22:28

Who is this/that?

Who are they?

She was the one who made me come early :whistle:
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Re: Who was OR Who were

Postby E04teacherlin » 16 May 2012, 09:40

Subject verb agreement. If there is no subject in the question, who is the subject and you use the singular. If there is a subject in the sentence and they are plural you use plural.
Who were the people playing in the park? The subject is people so you have to use were. Who was walking next to you? as opposed to "Who were YOU walking next to?
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