Hi Teachers,

Could you tell me the reason please?

Why I can say 'Who was in the car?' and not 'Who was there in the car?' if
the answer is, 'There was nobody in the car.'

When can 'there' be omitted in the question and why?

Thank in advance

I would say it is just emphasis (and there may be a sense of accusation)...

- We went to the wedding in her car

- So the two of you had a quiet journey

- No, my sister and here three children were in the car with us

- When the accident took place, we know you weren't alone - who was there in the car with you?

- Honest, there was nobody else in the car

Hope this may help, Dave
Hi Dave,

Thank you for your reply.

So, when I use 'there' in this question it may be just because of a sense of accusation? Is that the only reason to use 'there' in this question? What about other questions with 'be+there'? Can it always be omitted in information questions?

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

I was just giving one example of why "there" might be used for emphasis. The emphasis might not be accusing

I would say that, usually, you either state the location or else use "there". If you use both then it is to emphasise, by repetition..


- Who was at the party?

- My brother was there

.. or ..

- My brother was at the party


- Frank Sinatra was there at the party!

- Fred says he didn't know about the argument

- But he was there in the office when it happened!

Regards, Dave
Hi Dave,

Thank you for your reply again. Now it is really clear.Emotion: smile


The the word "there" in the phrase "who was there" has more the nature of an idiom, and has no real grammatical function and no real meaning. You can omit it with no problem, as it really means nothing.

You can answer "'There was nobody in the car." to either "Who was in the car?" or "Who was there in the car?" The "there" in "There was nobody in the car." has no relation to the "there" in "Who was there in the car?"

Note the following:

"Who was there that I could turn to?" The "there" here is idiomatic in nature and doesn't really mean anything. You could easily omit it: "Who could I turn to?"

Who was there backing me up? = Who was backing me up?

Who was there staying so late in the offict? = Who was staying so late at the office?

And so forth.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for your reply and detailed explanation.

Then for this question, both answers are possible:

Who was (there) in the car?

a) There was nobody in the car.

b) Peter was there in the car.

In b 'there' is just for emphasis, isn't it? That's what Dave told me. Now I understand it even better.

In, "Who was there in the car?", the word "there" is idiomatic and means nothing, so ignore it and consider the question to be: "Who was in the car?"

You can answer this: "There was nobody in the car." In this sentence the word "there" is part of a standard grammatical construction - "There was ...." - and is not idiomatic, like in, "Who was there in the car?" The "there" in "Who was there in the car?" has nothing to do with the "there" in "There was nobody in the car."

"Peter was there in the car." is not correct as an answer to the question, "Who was there in the car?" The "there" in "Who was there in the car?" is idiomatic and means nothing, and it does not propogate over to the answer. The correct answer is: "Peter was in the car."
Hi Anonymous,

Thank you so much for your reply. It's so clear now. No further questions at this point.Emotion: smile


Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies