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    #1

    usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Hi everyone,
    My question is in Simple Present Tense why do we always ask "who" questions (if we are asking for the subject) with the third singular person?
    For example:
    John and Jack study English.
    Who studies English?

    or can we say : who study English?

    Thanks for your help......

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    In all the present tense forms, simple, continuous and perfect, who is followed by a verb in the 3rd person singular form:

    Who studies English?
    Who is studying English?
    Who has studied English?


    We use the singular verb form even when we are fairly sure that the answer will be plural (as in when we ask a group of children; "Who likes birthdays?").

    Occasionally in conversation, in a form of 'echoing', who may be heard followed by a plural verb form:

    A: Bill and Mary are coming to tea this evening.
    B: Who are coming?


    It may be heard, but that does not mean it is correct!

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    #3

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    In all the present tense forms, simple, continuous and perfect, who is followed by a verb in the 3rd person singular form:

    Who studies English?
    Who is studying English?
    Who has studied English?


    We use the singular verb form even when we are fairly sure that the answer will be plural (as in when we ask a group of children; "Who likes birthdays?").

    Occasionally in conversation, in a form of 'echoing', who may be heard followed by a plural verb form:

    A: Bill and Mary are coming to tea this evening.
    B: Who are coming?


    It may be heard, but that does not mean it is correct!
    I don't know about your examples but I believe it is correct (at least some grammarians say so) to say:

    It is you who are coming to tea this evening.

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    #4

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Because its antecedent is unknown, interrogative who is, by default, singular in number:


    • Who studies English?
    • Who study English?

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    #5

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Occasionally in conversation, in a form of 'echoing', who may be heard followed by a plural verb form:

    A: Bill and Mary are coming to tea this evening.
    B: Who are coming?


    It may be heard, but that does not mean it is correct!
    Echoing is an excellent point; however, how the speaker interprets the meaning is also a point to consider:


    • Bill and Mary are coming.
      • Who are coming?
        • Meaning, which two people are coming?


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    #6

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I don't know about your examples but I believe it is correct (at least some grammarians say so) to say:

    It is you who are coming to tea this evening.
    There are certain cases in which 'am' may follow 'who'
    "It is I who am lazy"
    But I think this is not what sebujino meant to ask

  4. Raymott's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I don't know about your examples but I believe it is correct (at least some grammarians say so) to say:

    It is you who are coming to tea this evening.
    I agree. It's quite common to use "to be" in the plural with "who" as subject. (Note that your example uses 'who' as a subordinator, so it's not quite what the OP was asking. It's obviously correct to write, "These are the students who study English.")

    A: Can my friends come?
    B: It depends. Who are your friends?
    Who are the people living down the street.

    I don't think this happens with other verbs, but it's correct with "be".

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    #8

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I agree. It's quite common to use "to be" in the plural with "who" as subject.

    A: Can my friends come?
    B: It depends. Who are your friends?
    I'm not quite sure that's all there is to it, as it is also quite common to use "to be" in the singular with "who" as subject.

    The rule, "who" agrees in person and number with its antecedent:


    • Who are your friends?
      • antecedent known
        • plural noun 'friends'
          • plural verb



    • Who is your friend?
      • antecedent known
        • singular noun 'friend'
          • singular verb



    • Who is that guy over there?
      • antecedent known
        • singular noun 'guy'
          • singular verb


    • Who are those guys over there?
      • antecedent known
        • plural 'guys'
          • plural verb

    So, you see, it is just as common to use "to be" in the singular with "who" as subject because it's its antecedent that holds the key: if its, plural, "who" will be plural, if it's singular, "who" will be singular, and if it's unknown, "who" is by default singular; i.e., non-copular verbs, Who studies English? That's the pattern I see. "Who" will always have an antecedent, be it singular or plural, in copular constructs. One is no more common than the other.


    Looking back at the OP's question, what interests me is why "who" is by default singular in number when its antecedent is known:

    A: They study English in this room.
    B: Who studies in this room?
    A: They do.
    It's obvious from the semantics that 'Who' refers to 'They', a plural pronoun, so shouldn't 'Who' agree in plural number with the verb "study"?

    A: They study English in this room.
    B: Who study in this room?
    A: They do.
    Why is 'Who study' ungrammatical? Is it because "who" and its antecedent must co-occur in the same sentence?

    Probably, yes.

    That's as far as I've gotten.

    What are your thoughts?

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    #9

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Thanks for your excellent, well-laid-out post.

    I think the only thing that occurs to me is that we treat the verb "to be" differently.

    So, now, what about "to have" in the perfect?

    I can see by the mess that he's been here and left again.
    - Who has been here?

    I can see by the mess that they have been here and left again.
    - Who has been here? // Who have been here?

    I think only "has." What about you?
    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.

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    #10

    Re: usage of "who" in simple present tense"

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post

    I can see by the mess that they have been here and left again.
    - Who has been here? // Who have been here?

    I think only "has." What about you?
    Hi Barb

    Hmm. Let's see. As an echo? No.., it feels ungrammatical to me. As a contraction..? Nope. That sounds odd too, even though it kind of sounds like 3rd person "who's":


    • Who'[f] been here?


    _____________
    Thanks for the compliment.

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