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    #1

    The correct verb form in questions beginning with who and what

    Hi,

    I teach English but since I'm not a native speaker, often some questions come up that I can't easily answer.

    As part of the teaching practice, I have to ask the students to write questions about the texts and dialogs that they study.

    I know that when a question begins with "what" or "who" and the question is about the subject, i.e. there are no subjects in the questions, the verb must be in the form of third person singular, e.g.:

    Who works here?
    What has happened?

    But some of the students make questions like these:

    Who are talking together?
    Who are talking with each other?

    When I hear these questions I get a feeling that something is wrong, but I can't correct these questions. Because if you change the verb to third person singular, it will be in direct contrast with "together" or "each other".

    Are these sentences correct? If not, how can I correct them?

    I would be grateful if you could help me with this problem.

  1. 5jj's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
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    • Join Date: Oct 2010
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    #2

    Re: The correct verb form in questions beginning with who and what

    Quote Originally Posted by caminostro View Post
    Hi,

    I know that when a question begins with "what" or "who" and the question is about the subject, i.e. there are no subjects in the questions, the verb must be in the form of third person singular, e.g.:

    Who works here?
    What has happened? Correct.

    But some of the students make questions like these:

    Who are talking together?
    Who are talking with each other?

    When I hear these questions I get a feeling that something is wrong, but I can't correct these questions. Because if you change the verb to third person singular, it will be in direct contrast with "together" or "each other".

    Are these sentences correct? If not, how can I correct them?
    Your examples do indeed seem very odd, and changing are to is doesn't help much. I agree that the plural senses of together and with each other make the use of a singular verb form appear strange.

    One way round this would be to rephrase:

    Who are those people talking together?
    Who are those people talking with/to each other?


    Are is now possible, and the strangeness disappears.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Persian
      • Home Country:
      • Iran
      • Current Location:
      • Iran

    • Join Date: Nov 2010
    • Posts: 21
    #3

    Re: The correct verb form in questions beginning with who and what

    Thank you very much. This problem had been on my mind for a long time and I encountered this problem almost on a weekly basis.

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