My student today asked me why we say "what is your name?" instead of "what are your name?".
I think we should say "what are your name?" since your/her takes "are"!
Please explain. Thank you in advance.
After thinking it through, I think the best response of the teacher (you!) for this particular student once he or she asked,
And if he or she looked confused, then you could add,
If your course is about conversational English and it doesn't emphasize grammar, perhaps this is the best way to go, in my opinion. There is no grammar terminology in the reply. (Please note that I avoided even using the word "either" intentionally.)
However, if your course also includes grammar, then you can take it as a good opportunity to discuss with your student(s) the concept of singular vs. plural in English, and the possessive form of you (which is your) and other pronouns, and how to find the main word in a noun phrase, and sentence structures in English, and so on.
I think this is an example of students having learned some "rules" by heart which aren't rules.
Your is the possessive of you, and you can be singular or plural.
The main point is that the subject of the verb is name, or if you address multiple people, names
If you are addressing a single person, you can say:
If you are asking a group of people to give their names, you ask:
But the conclusion that "your" takes "are" is absurdly and wrongly oversimplified.
"Who are you?" would be correct, because "you" is the subject of the sentence. But "What is your name?" is different: "Name" is the subject of that sentence. It is modified by the adjective "your", but that doesn't change the subject.
Because of that, your student is correct. The sentence you mentioned is talking about the person's name, not the actual person. That's what makes the difference.
No. "What IS your name?" is correct.
The subject of the sentence is not "you", but "name". "Name" is singular.
A common error in English is to confuse the subject of the sentence with modifiers on that subject when selecting the appropriate verb. For example: RIGHT: "The girl with the cats is here." WRONG: "The girl with the cats are here." "Cats" is plural, so if "cats" was the subject of the sentence, the correct verb would be "are". But "cats" is not the subject of the sentence. The subject is "girl", which is singular. So the correct verb is "is".
Similar thing here. "Your" is not the subject of the sentence. It is an adjective modifying "name".
This case is a little easier than my example because "your" is an adjective, not a noun, and so can never be the subject of a sentence. (Unless you are talking about the word itself.) You might say "You are ...", but you would never say "Your are ...". It must always be "Your X is/are ...", where X is a noun. (Or some more complex sentence, of course.)