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I have been discussing with someone about the use of "Who is standing?" vs "Who are standing?" and we couldn't come to an agreement. I really appreciate someone here can help.

The situation is like this. Mary and Jane see two boys standing under a tree. Mary wants to know the names of the boy. Is it common for native speakers in such a situation to ask "Who is standing under the tree?" or would it be better to say "Who are standing under the tree?" And would this choice be an British vs American thing?

Of course Mary can say "Who are the boys standing under the tree?" But the issue is if there is nothing in the question with a plural sense, should the verb be singular or plural?

Thank you very much.
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Hi Pter

Without any clearly plural word in the sentence, I'd use "Who is".
Hi,

This is an interesting question, because, as a British native speaker, I would always say 'who is standing under the tree', even if it is two people. It sounds very odd to say 'who are' unless it's followed by a plural complement, like 'who are your friends?'.

I don't know why this should be though, and would be interested to hear any opinions.

Best wishes,

Seonaid
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YankeeHi Pter

Without any clearly plural word in the sentence, I'd use "Who is".
And, oddly enough, "Who all is coming to dinner" sounds better to me than "who all are coming to dinner", even with the reference to a plural.
And, oddly enough, "Who all is coming to dinner" sounds better to me than "who all are coming to dinner", even with the reference to a plural.
Thanks Philip. Is "Who all ....." a colloquial expression? How about in writing? If a teacher shows a picture to the students with two boys under the tree and asks them to write a question about it, do you think the teacher expects them to write "Who is standing under the tree?" or "Who are standing under the tree?"
PterThe situation is like this. Mary and Jane see two boys standing under a tree. Mary wants to know the names of the boy. Is it common for native speakers in such a situation to ask "Who is standing under the tree?" or would it be better to say "Who are standing under the tree?" And would this choice be an British vs American thing?

Hi,
this is a simple one. The verb is always singular when "who" is the subject, always, in both BrE and AmE.

a) Some people hate you.
b) Really? Who1 hates me? Who2 are the ones who3 hate me?


1. Who is the subject. Who hates? Always singular.
2. Who is not the subject. The subject is the ones, you have subject-verb inversion in the question. Who are they? It agrees with the subject, which is plural, in this case.
3. Who is a realtive pronoun, used to connect a relative clause. There are people who hate you. It agrees with the noun it refers to, which is plural, in this case.

Emotion: smile
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Hi,
this is a simple one. The verb is always singular when "who" is the subject, always, in both BrE and AmE.
Always? Really? Even in writing?

Actually, I told the others that native speakers would use "Who is standing?", but they just didn't believe me! They insist that because there are two boys, so you should ask the question in plural. Is notional concord required here?

BTW, I am new to this forum and couldn't make the quote work properly to include the name of the one I am quoting. The system always says "Non matching quote blocks in post" when I use something like
[code]
[quote="name of someone"]
[/code]
Could anyone help me please?
PterAlways? Really? Even in writing?

Actually, I told the others that native speakers would use "Who is standing?", but they just didn't believe me! They insist that because there are two boys, so you should ask the question in plural. Is notional concord required here?

Yep, always. This is one of the few things I'm sure of. The ones that insist you should say "who are" are obviously not native speakers, are they?

I peeked in because I wanted to see who was at the meeting. I couldn't see Mary. I saw John and Jenny though. Anyway, there were a lot of people, and I couldn't see who was sitting in the first row.

And this forum lets you see who is online, by the way.

Emotion: smile

PS: click on "quote" when you reply. You'll get the text already quoted. It's --> quote user="nick", /quote.
KooyeenYep, always. This is one of the few things I'm sure of. The ones that insist you should say "who are" are obviously not native speakers, are they?

I peeked in because I wanted to see who was at the meeting. I couldn't see Mary. I saw John and Jenny though. Anyway, there were a lot of people, and I couldn't see who was sitting in the first row.

And this forum lets you see who is online, by the way.

Emotion: smile
No, they aren't. Neither am I. That's why we couldn't come to an agreement. And I was not able to convince others because it appears to defy their logic.

Perhaps it is a foolish question. May I ask WHY it is always singular even if the who you are referring to are right in your face and are absolutely positively plural?
KooyeenPS: click on "quote" when you reply. You'll get the text already quoted. It's --> quote user="nick", /quote.

Wonderful! Thank you so much. I didn't notice there is a "quote" button next to the "reply" button!

I tried to do that manually according to the formating guide of EnglishForward.com (the BBCode Guide), but it is wrong!
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