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  1. #1
    English4everyone is offline Member
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    who and what as the subject

    My teacher said "Who and what as the subject always take a singular verb". Is that true? Because I was reading a text and I saw a question "What were your learning?

  2. #2
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    Chicken Sandwich is offline Senior Member
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    Re: who and what as the subject

    NOT A TEACHER

    Quote Originally Posted by English4everyone View Post
    Because I was reading a text and I saw a question "What were your learning?
    This is not a proper a question. But even in 'What were you learning?' "what" is not the subject of the sentence (unless I'm really going mad...). "You" is the subject.

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    English4everyone is offline Member
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    Re: who and what as the subject

    Thanks, but I am sure about it. This is the question: What were your learning? That's why I am confused. Mustn't it be what was your learning?

  4. #4
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    Barb_D is online now Moderator
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    Re: who and what as the subject

    What were you learning? - Not "your" but "you."

    The "were" goes with you.
    You were leaning math. What were you learning?

    I hesitate to say "always" to anything.

    If you are looking at a picture and it shows two boys, you could say "Who are these boys?"
    What are these marks?
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  5. #5
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    Re: who and what as the subject

    If you actually saw "What were your learning?" in a book, then it was a typo.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  6. #6
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Re: who and what as the subject

    Quote Originally Posted by English4everyone View Post
    My teacher said "Who and what as the subject always take a singular verb". Is that true?

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


    Hello,

    Perhaps your teacher was thinking of these rules:

    1. When "who" and "what" are used to ask for the subject, they most often have singular verbs:

    a. Who is working tomorrow? Phil, Lucy and Shareena (are working tomorrow).
    b. What lives in those holes? Rabbits (do).

    2. When "who" and "what" ask for the complement, they can have plural verbs:

    a. Who are your closest friends? (My closest friends are) Naomi and Bridget.


    3. Relative what-clauses are normally the subject of a singular verb:

    a. What she needs is friends. (More natural than What she needs are friends.)

    [Personal note: Maybe some native speakers feel that "What she needs are friends" is more natural than "What she needs is friends."]

    Complete credit for those rules go to Mr. Michael Swan in his Practical English Usage (1995 edition, entry #509.3 on page 533).

    4. Here are a few more examples from a very strict teacher named Wilson Follett in his Modern American Usage (1980 edition, page 233):

    a. What to watch for _____ such things as dry, sandy layers or hardpan.
    b. What they saw _____ the white sand cliffs on the eastern coast.
    c. What these gentlemen need _____ new moral values.

    Mr. Follett says that correct English requires the singular verb: is, was, is. [Personal note: in 2012, maybe many native speakers would have no problem with: are, were, are. Mr. Follett does admit that a "correct" sentence such as "The only thing untouched was the tents" is "awkward."]


    James
    Last edited by TheParser; 30-Sep-2012 at 22:11. Reason: corrected a misspelled word

  7. #7
    English4everyone is offline Member
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    Re: who and what as the subject

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Hello,

    Perhaps your teacher was thinking of these rules:

    1. When "who" and "what" are used to ask for the subject, they most often have singular verbs:

    a. Who is working tomorrow? Phil, Lucy and Shareena (are working tomorrow).
    b. What lives in those holes? Rabbits (do).

    2. When "who" and "what" ask for the complement, they can have plural verbs:

    a. Who are your closest friends? (My closest friends are) Naomi and Bridget.


    3. Relative what-clauses are normally the subject of a singular verb:

    a. What she needs is friends. (More natural than What she needs are friends.)

    [Personal note: Maybe some native speakers feel that "What she needs are friends" is more natural than "What she needs is friends."]

    Complete credit for those rules go to Mr. Michael Swan in his Practical English Usage (1995 edition, entry #509.3 on page 533).

    4. Here are a few more examples from a very strict teacher named Wilson Follett in his Modern American Usage (1980 edition, page 233):

    a. What to watch for _____ such things aa dry, sandy layers or hardpan.
    b. What they saw _____ the white sand cliffs on the eastern coast.
    c. What these gentlemen need _____ new moral values.

    Mr. Follett says that correct English requires the singular verb: is, was, is. [Personal note: in 2012, maybe many native speakers would have no problem with: are, were, are. Mr. Follett does admit that a "correct" sentence such as "The only thing untouched was the tents" is "awkward."]


    James
    Perfect

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