Who was/were

subhajit123

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Hi everyone, Can you please tell me 'was' or 'were': which one should I choose in the context?

Here is a homewok in my grammar book.

They were beating the boy for not following rules. (Make a question using 'who')

Ans- Who was/were beating the boy for not following rules?

was or were : Which one should I use with 'who' in the context?

I think I should use 'was' but I am not sure as it is referring to more than one person.
 
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Matthew Wai

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Did your teacher tell you to do the homework?
 

Matthew Wai

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The following statement can confirm it.

'The convention here is that in an interrogative sentence—one that asks a question—“who” (as well as “what”) is generally used with a singular verb, even when it’s understood that the pronoun refers to more than one person (or thing).'──quoted from https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2012/08/who-is-who-are.html
 

emsr2d2

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That convention is right as long as the interrogative comes first. It doesn't necessarily work if the interrogative is being used to clarify something expressed in a preceding declarative sentence.

John: Who is complaining?
Sarah: They are!

John: They are complaining.
Sarah: Who are?
 

Matthew Wai

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I think 'Who are?' means 'Who are they?' in this context.
 

emsr2d2

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It could be used to mean "Who are 'they'?", in which the questioner wants the other person to identify who they mean by the word "they".
 

Raymott

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"Ans- Who was/were beating the boy for not following rules?"

If that is the answer, then they are saying that either is acceptable. It would be different it if were a question.

 
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