Can we use the stem (not the third-person singular) to form wh-questions about the subject? if the answer given is hunters kill animals and were asked to form a question do we say who kill animals? or who kills animals?


1 Answer 1


You can use either the singular or the plural depending on who you have in mind.

If, for example, you thought that the answer might be the clans of Somalia you would probably ask: **Who (are the people who) kill animals.

But if you had an individual (or even a class of individuals in mind) you would probably ask Who kills animals.

In the example you give, the answer depends of whether you consider hunters as numerous individuals or a single group.

  • 1
    So you're saying "Who kill animals?" sounds right to you? It doesn't sound right to me as a native speaker of AmE. (I can't think of a single example of a verb that would sound right in this context in the plural besides to be.) Can you provide a source that backs up this information?
    – Laurel
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 2:16
  • @Laurel Take a classroom situation. A teacher tells pupils:*The fact is that American hunters kill thousands of animals*. Question: Who kill animals? Answer: American hunters kill animals. Alternatively, change kill to shoot. Who shoot animals? Answer: Hunters shoot animals? Who can take a singular or plural verb. *Who are (the people) coming through the gate? Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 8:29

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