who

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who

Post by azz » Fri Feb 26, 2021 2:35 am

A says: Our neighbors make a lot of noise.
B asks: Who make a lot of noise? Your neighbors above you or the ones below?

Is B's sentence correct in this context or should it be 'who makes'?

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A says: Tom and Jane spend a lot of time on the phone.
B asks: I'm sorry. I didn't hear the names you mentioned. Who spend a lot of time on the phone?

Is B's sentence correct in this context or should it be 'who spends'?

Many thanks.
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Re: who

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Feb 26, 2021 4:04 am

Though the referents of a question that asks "who" may in practice number more than one, as in both your specimen instances ("neighbors" & "Tom and Jane"), by convention "who" takes the singular form of the verb.
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Re: who

Post by azz » Fri Feb 26, 2021 6:58 am

Thank you so much.

I thought that that would be the case, but how about

A says: "The people standing over there are idiots."
B asks: "I am sorry, but who are idiots?"

Isn't the plural form correct in this case?

Many thanks.
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Re: who

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Feb 26, 2021 3:12 pm

Yes, it is.

My understanding is that B's repetition in their question of A's wording, "are idiots", which contains the plural form of the verb "to be", causes the default presumption of the singular form to be overridden, because only in this way can the consistency of number agreement between the verb and referent be maintained.
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