You say, "Who is in the room?" even though you know there are a lot of people there. Not "Who are in the room?"

Now, suppose somebody says to you "Come with me! I've seen a bunch of drinks on the table. We are thirsty." You know there are a lot of kinds of drinks there. How would you respond, "What is on the table?" or "What are on the table?"?

Many thanks in advance.


Sendai, Japan
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In that situation, you would say "What is..." (or more naturally, "What's") unless you are making a specific reference to a plural.

What are those things up there? ("those things" being plural)
Hi, GG.

Thanks. "What" in your last sentence is a complement. I was trying to look into situations where "what" is used as a subject.

"Who are they?" (who as a complement) is a totally okay sentence, but "Who are in the room?" (who as a subject) is not.

I was wondering "What are on the desk" (what as a subject) could be possible.


Sendai, Japan
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No, that would also be "What is on the desk?" (And parallel to the one above, "What are the items on your desk?")
You are seeing some unknown different kinds of objects gathering, looking through a microscope.

Would you say "What's gathering?" or "What're gathering?"?

Thanks, GG.

Actually, you'd probably say "What's that?"

By the way, your sentence should have the "Looking through a microscope" in the front, immediately before "you." Otherwise it might appear that those gathering objects are looking through the microscope.
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Yes, indeed.

Looking through the microscope, the butterflies were beautiful.

(Sounds like something from a Gary Larson cartoon!)

As for the who and what, I'd say the rule is the same for both, i.e., used as a subject they always take a singular verb. I understand the "things gathering" example is a way of trying (desperately, perhaps Emotion: smile) to find a case where you absolutely have to use the plural verb. But the singular is just fine there.

Thinking really hard, can you come up with any example at all in which "what" is used as a subject and a singular verb follows it?

"What happens at the end of the book?"
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