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    #1

    What is he?

    A: What is he?
    B: He is my teacher.

    'What' is somehow dubious to me. Shouldn't we say:
    1. What is his job?
    or
    2. What does he do?

    or if we don't know him at all:
    3. Who is he?

    Thanks,
    ata

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    #2

    Re: What is he?

    'What' generally refers to things, 'who' refers to people. If you point at a person and say, 'What is he,' you are intentionally being insulting, since you are referring to him as though he were a thing.

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    #3

    Re: What is he?

    I can think of an instance in which you would use 'what' in reference to a person without being insulting.

    'That is John Smith. He's pretty important at the company.'

    'Oh really? What is he?'

    In this case, the question is asking what his position or title is. Still, in general, when asking about the identity of a person, it is proper to use 'who.'

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    #4

    Re: What is he?

    Please see this piece I've seen in a weak reference. Is this right?
    A: Who is that man, Ali?
    B: He is Mr. Hamidi.
    A: What is he?
    B: He is our teacher.

    What do you say about this piece of writing:
    A: My father is a farmer.
    What's your father, Ali?
    B: He is a teacher.

    What do you say about the first and the second conversation?
    ata

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: What is he?

    Quote Originally Posted by atabitaraf View Post
    What do you say about the first and the second conversation?
    'What does he do? is far more natural.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: What is he?

    Quote Originally Posted by atabitaraf View Post
    Please see this piece I've seen in a weak reference. Is this right?
    A: Who is that man, Ali?
    B: He is Mr. Hamidi.
    A: What is he?
    B: He is our teacher.

    What do you say about this piece of writing:
    A: My father is a farmer.
    What's your father, Ali?
    B: He is a teacher.

    What do you say about the first and the second conversation?
    ata
    In both your examples I would use a version of "What does he do [for a living]?" I don't think that "What is he?" is an appropriate question to elicit an answer about someone's profession.

    Who is that man, Ali?
    That's Mr Hamdi.
    What does he do? (or "Who is Mr Hamdi?")
    He's our teacher.

    My father is a farmer. What does your father do, Ali?
    He's a teacher.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 21-Dec-2011 at 21:03.

  3. Soup's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: What is he?

    Quote Originally Posted by atabitaraf View Post
    Please see this piece I've seen in a weak reference. Is this right?
    A: Who is that man, Ali?
    B: He is Mr. Hamidi. His name is Mr. Hamidi
    A: What is he? What does he do? / What's his profession? What's his job?
    B: He is our teacher.

    What do you say about this piece of writing:
    A: My father is a farmer.
    What's your father, Ali? What does your father do? What's your father's line of work?
    B: He is a teacher.

    What do you say about the first and the second conversation?
    ata


    A: What is he?
    B: He's human.

    _____________
    If I were pointing to a poster depicting a group of professionals, I might use, "What is he?" to mean "What does he do? What's his job, his profession, his line of work?"

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