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I was trying to explain an Italian saying, and I used the following sentence:

It is said for who pretend not to hear what you are telling them.

Can who be used to refer more than one person, in that sentence?

  • Can you perhaps state this in another way, to try and get the meaning of the sentence across? It might then be easier to help you. I find myself confused about the meaning of the sentence. What is said? I'm quite curious now, actually! And if I better understood what you were aiming to say, that could help me in writing an answer. – WendiKidd Feb 6 '13 at 17:46
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The pronoun who can be used in singular or plural, but the example sentence as it stands is grammatically incorrect and semantically unclear. Perhaps the intended meaning is

It is said of those who pretend not to hear what you are telling them.


Edit: As noted in a comment, use preposition of if the example refers to something said about someone, and preposition for if it refers to something said for the benefit of someone or on behalf of someone. Regardless of which preposition is used, those who is needed for grammatical correctness.


Edit 2: Regarding the question

Shouldn't it be: It is said from those if it is referring to the origin of something?

It is said from those is unsound; to say from does not have a clear and usual meaning there. (However, say from could appear in a sentence like “One can't say from that evidence what happened”; except see from or tell from are more likely verb forms in this latter example, and in my vernacular I'd say “From that evidence, one can't tell what happened”. That is, in several of these forms, substitutions are likely to occur in ordinary speech, to reduce clumsiness of phrasing. )

Anyhow, to reiterate, say from doesn't work in the original example. If you want to refer to the origin of something, do so explicitly. For example:

From the example of those who pretend not to hear what you are telling them came the saying [whatever].

Regarding the question

Shouldn't it be It is said for those who when referring to someone?

It is said for those who is an appropriate form when something is being said on behalf of, or for the benefit of, or to influence, some group of persons. But when referring to someone, of or about are appropriate prepositions to use. For example: It is said about those who dither and It is said of those who dither have similar meaning and refer to people who dither. Or, if something is said directly to certain people: It is said to those who dither.

  • Would saying "it is said of who pretend" be acceptable? – kiamlaluno Feb 6 '13 at 15:21
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    Or perhaps it's "It is said for those who pretend not to hear..."? "Of" means "about", and "for" means "for the benefit of" (spoken in their presence so that they can hear it but not directly addressed to them). – user264 Feb 6 '13 at 16:13
  • @kiamlaluno no, that doesn't sound right. – Matt Ellen Feb 6 '13 at 21:53
  • @kiamlaluno no, it needs the 'those' – mcalex Feb 8 '13 at 9:02
  • Shouldn't it be: It is said from those if it is referring to the origin of something?, and shouldn't it be It is said for those who when referring to someone? – Davyd Dec 30 '16 at 16:08
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There are really two questions here. One is whether who may have a plural referent, and the answer is Yes, as either a relative or an interrogative pronoun:

Those who are here are the best. Who are these people?

The second question is whether who may be employed as an indefinite pronoun, and the answer is Not any more. Four hundred years ago it was not uncommon:

Who steals my purse steals trash. —Othello

But that is no longer idiomatic. Today you must employ a different pronoun, or a different construction:

Whoever steals my purse steals trash.
He who steals my purse steals trash.

So your sentence has to be recast:

It is said for those who pretend not to hear what you are telling them.
It is said for whoever pretends not to hear what you are telling them.

Whoever does not take a plural verb. There’s no logical reason why it shouldn’t, since it can have plural referent; but it doesn’t.

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You could also eliminate the word "who" from the sentence. Removing unnecessary words is efficient and preferred.

It is said of people pretending...

-or-

It is said of those pretending...

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