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    • Join Date: May 2009
    • Posts: 1
    #1

    Post Who were they? vs. Who were there?

    Hello Grammarians!

    This came up in an IELTS class I was teaching the other day. There was a listening task in which a woman talks about a dinner she went to. One question was "Who was with her?" The answer was "Her aunt and cousin" - i.e. two people. My student said she was expecting the answer to be just one person because the question was "Who was with her?" not "Who were with her?"

    I told her that "Who were with her?" does not sound grammatically correct but I couldn't explain why, especially since "Who were they?" is right and "Who was they?" is wrong.

    Why? Hope you can help.

    Thanks - Lankymax
    --
    Follow me on Twitter for snippets of language learning and web resources for language learners: Lankymax (Lankymax) on Twitter


    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 2,886
    #2

    Re: Who were they? vs. Who were there?

    When "who" or "what" is used to ask for the subject of the clause, they have singular verbs, even if the question expects a plural answer.

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    • Join Date: Apr 2007
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    #3

    Re: Who were they? vs. Who were there?

    Quote Originally Posted by lankymax View Post
    hello grammarians!

    This came up in an ielts class i was teaching the other day. There was a listening task in which a woman talks about a dinner she went to. One question was "who was with her?" the answer was "her aunt and cousin" - i.e. Two people. My student said she was expecting the answer to be just one person because the question was "who was with her?" not "who were with her?"

    i told her that "who were with her?" does not sound grammatically correct but i couldn't explain why
    It doesn't sound correct mainly because it is never said.

    of course, if we know there was only one person with her, or if we have no reason to believe there were two or more people, we will say "who was with her?"
    If we know there were at least two people with her, we could ask 'Who were the people with her?'. But "Who was with her?" is more natural and common.



    , especially since "who were they?" is right of course it is right when we know there were at least two people and want to know who they were.

    and "who was they?" is wrong. It is wrong because "was" is singular and "they" is plural.

    2006

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