When who and what are used to ask for the subject of a clause, they most often have singular verbs, even if the question expects a plural answer.

Practical English Usage, Michael Swan, Third edition, Page 525

So we say:

A: Who is speaking?
Q: John and David are speaking.

How about this one? Is it correct to ask:

A: Who is speaking with each other?

For this answer:

Q: John and David are speaking with each other.

  • 1
    I think the way to say "Who is speaking with each other?" is "Who is speaking with whom?"
    – fixer1234
    Mar 26, 2017 at 22:38

3 Answers 3


"Who is speaking with each other" does not sound right to me; unfortunately, I don't have a source to cite to back this up. I wouldn't recommend "Who are speaking with each other" either though.

I would recommend avoiding using "who" as the subject of questions including the phrase "each other," and instead using something more specific if you can, like "which [plural noun]." "Which of them are speaking with each other?" is certainly grammatical.


I'm going to assume that "with each other" you mean 2 people.

To ask your question then, you could say

Which two people are speaking with each other?

If you have more than 2 people, you could say:

Which group of people are speaking among themselves?

For the second form, you probably could say "speaking with each other", but I believe that "each other" strongly indicates exactly two people.

See dictionary.com, under "Usage note" for an alternate view.


"Who", like "you", can refer to either singular or plural. If you know that two people are speaking, then you would ask, "Who are speaking?" Otherwise, if it's not clear, you would use the singular, "Who is speaking?"

It's not that the book is wrong, rather if you don't know how many are speaking, you would use the singular by default. Once you know there are multiple people, you change the verb to match:

"Who is speaking?"

"Both John and David are speaking"

"Oh. Who are they?"

"They are the ones scheduled to speak."

You should use the singular when querying a group, but again change the verb if referring to multiple people:

"Who wants ice cream?"

(three children answer "yes")

"OK, what flavor to you want?"

It's the same way if the two people are talking to each other:

"Who is in the office with the boss?"

"Jim and Mary."

"Ah. What are they talking (to each other) about?"

Lastly, you should use the plural if the subject is obviously plural from the context of your question.

Who are the executive members of the committee?

Who are the students who will receive the award?

Who are those people waiting by the elevator?

and so on.

  • 1
    "Who are they" is a different phenomenon that should not be confused with plural verb agreement when "who" is the subject. You can see that the answer is of the form "they are...", not "... are they." In "Who are they," the word "they" is the subject; it comes after the verb due to subject-auxiliary inversion since it is a question. The other questions you mention like "What flavor do you want" don't have "who" as the subject either.
    – sumelic
    Mar 26, 2017 at 22:18
  • Be that as it may (I don't quite follow the subject-auxiliary inversion bit), from my experience the answer is perfectly valid for spoken English. The answer is of the form "they are ..." in either case, anyhow: "They are speaking to each other". Otherwise, what is the difference between "Who is the speaker speaking?", "who is the speaking speaker" and "Who is speaking?"? Also, if "Who" in "Who are they" wasn't the subject, then what is the subject in "who is speaking"?
    – Hector von
    Mar 26, 2017 at 22:40
  • This is a difficult question because many will answer using the accusative case "It is me" instead of the nominative "it is I"
    – Hector von
    Mar 26, 2017 at 22:43
  • @Hectorvon: In "Who is speaking," the subject is "who," which is followed by a plural verb as Swan says is expected. What I'm saying is, Andrew's answer doesn't contain any examples as far as I can tell of questions where "who" is the subject and is followed by a plural verb.
    – sumelic
    Mar 26, 2017 at 22:53
  • 1
    @sumelic: "What I'm saying is, Andrew's answer doesn't contain any examples as far as I can tell of questions where 'who' is the subject and is followed by a plural verb." I think in "Who are the executive members of the committee?", "who" can be considered either as the subject or the complement. A possible answer is: "John and David are the executive...", where "John and David" is the subject of the sentence.
    – Mori
    Mar 27, 2017 at 9:03

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