1

Does question word "Who" always require a singular verb right after it?

Imagine a situation, in which somebody is telling you a sentence, but you don't make out one word in it (in the example below that word is shown by XXXXX):

-- I just realized that those XXXXX go to school only 3 times a week!

On one hand, you didn't hear the word clearly, but, on the other hand, you did hear "those" (not "that") and "go" (not "goes"), so you are quite positive that it's about more than one person. So, how would you ask a question here?

Would you ask like:

-- I am sorry I didn't hear it. Who go to school only 3 times a week?

or would you still stick to the singular form (even though you know that it's more than one person meant) like:

-- I am sorry. I didn't hear it. Who goes to school only 3 times a week?

2

In the kind of situation you describe, where you are enquiring after the identity of person or persons unknown, who is singular. That applies even if you know the number, or that it's more than one; it is the sentence structure that leads to it being singular. That's a limited case, though. If the question has a verb with people, or anything similar to people, as an object, rather than a verb giving a condition via prepositional phrase like "goes to school only three times a week", then it's that object that determines the number of who.

Who are those people?
Who do they think they are, coming here at three in the morning!?
Who are the Birmingham Six?

The same goes for its use as a relative pronoun, of course.

They're just people who are down on their luck, who came here looking for a new life and didn't find anything better than this.

  • "In the kind of situation you describe, where you are inquiring after the identity of person or persons unknown..." - It's not "person or persons". It's definitely and only "persons". I don't know who they are, but I know for sure that it's more than one person. – brilliant Apr 8 at 17:36
  • The "person or persons" I included was to say that who is singular regardless of the number, not just if you don't know the number. I'll edit to clarify. – SamBC Apr 8 at 17:39
  • Thanks. But can we make the situation a bit more tricky? Imagine you are a teacher in the kindergarten. You show to a kid a picture depicting boys brushing their teeth and ask, "Who brushes their teeth on this picture? Boys or girls?" Or would you ask, "Who brush their teeth on this picture? Boys or girls?"? In short, would you use "brush" or "brushes" in you question? – brilliant Apr 8 at 18:23
  • @brilliant Neither, it would be "who is brushing their teeth in this picture?" – SamBC Apr 8 at 19:45
  • (1) Well, I was afraid you would change Present Simple to Present Continuous, but my trick was exactly in how you would ask that question in Present Simple. So, imagine that that was not a single picture, but a strip of identical pictures with different captions below. The first one would have "Monday" below it, the second one "Tuesday", etc. – brilliant Apr 8 at 23:55
0

Would you ask like: Who go to school only 3 times a week? or would you still stick to the singular form (even though you know that it's more than one person meant) like: Who goes to school only 3 times a week?

As you stated in your Second Sentence, you need to use Goes, as

Who go to school only 3 times a week?

is Incorrect Grammar, So to answer your Question:

Does question word "Who" always require a singular verb right after it?

YES, It should, Meaning you should always have a verb after Who. Examples include Can, Doesnt, Does, Goes, likes, etc.

  • It would be good to have some sources here. – brilliant Apr 8 at 17:20
  • apologies @brilliant I can grab some sources if needed? I'm going off basic research and my own knowledge – TaylorS Apr 9 at 11:58

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