17

I can use "Who are you?" when talking to one person.

But what can I use if I'm talking to a group of people?

  • The plural of “person” is usually “people”. – Tyler James Young Apr 15 '14 at 18:27
  • So should I say: ...talking to people, instead of ...talking to a group of persons ? – elhoucine Apr 15 '14 at 21:07
  • Yes, either “talking to people” or “talking to a group of people” is the way to say it. “Persons” is obsolete. – Tyler James Young Apr 15 '14 at 21:09
  • There is only one WHO, so why would you need a plural? – CodesInChaos Apr 16 '14 at 9:16
  • You could say Who are you guys? in this example. – Nicolas Raoul Apr 16 '14 at 10:22
19

“Who” can be made plural the usual way, but that is not what is needed here

The “Whos” And “Wheres” Of iOS Device Usage Explained
Source: TechCrunch headline

This is a plural in the sense that it refers to multiple mentions of (or answers to) the question “who?”.


“Who” does not have a plural form like the way that “is” changes to “are”
Generally speaking, the word “who” is a pronoun. It stands in for the mention of a person or people, but has no power to determine in and of itself how many people the speaker is talking about.


“You” does not have a plural form either, but can refer to multiple people
The word “you” in your sentence does not have to change in order to refer to multiple people. To make the reference more clear, you can add “two” or “all” as in “you two” or “you all” (or, regionally, “y'all”).


If you want to ask about the identity of multiple people, convey this with other words

  1. “all” after “who”
    Person A: We will need four more chairs set at the dinner table tonight.
    Person B: Who all will be joining us?
    This construction is informal and mainly AmE.

    “all” after “you”
    Group A: Trick or treat!
    Person B: Who are you all supposed to be?
    As indicated above, the contraction “y'all” is employed this way in some regions.
  2. “people”
    Group A: Surprise! You win this prize for being the 100th person to cross this new bridge!
    Person B: Who are you people?
    This construction may be considered brusque.
  3. “they”
    Person A: You've never heard of the Kardashians?
    Person B: No, who are they?
    “They” is usually third person plural but can also be third person singular.
  • Note: in Early Modern English, "You" was plural, with "Thou" being singular. On top of that, "You" functioned as singular but respectful (similar to Majestic Plural, "We, the King of...", king talking of self in plural.) Over time the polite, respectful form simply pushed 'Thou' out of use and current English has only the plural, and plural-as-singular form 'You'. – SF. Apr 15 '14 at 19:10
  • 1
    @SF. I had to restrain myself from discussing the fascinating history of pronouns and plurals in English, back through thees and thous and on to Old English's ability to convey pluralness with adjectives, nouns, and most verbs. Thank you for the note—it makes me feel better about having had that inclination. – Tyler James Young Apr 15 '14 at 19:35
  • Great answer, however, the using of "all" and "people" in the examples 1 and 2 is optional or mandatory ? – elhoucine Apr 15 '14 at 21:24
  • Optional. Most of the time you can just rely on context to make your meaning clear. These constructions are just for emphasis or being extra clear. They aren't uncommon, because it can sometimes be difficult to convey that you want to know who everyone is (another option) unless you can gesture or sweep your eyes across all of them. – Tyler James Young Apr 15 '14 at 21:38
  • '“Are” removes this ambiguity.' I don't think so. How would you ask who a person is when you don't know their gender? "Who are they?" Ambiguity intact. The alternative, "Who is they?", sounds awful. Your link to the singular they indicates as much. But other than that, great answer. – AlbeyAmakiir Apr 16 '14 at 5:24
7

It is the same in the plural:

Who is your best friend?
Who are your best friends?

 

Who are you? (to one person)
Who are you? (to more than one person) or
Who are you all?

1

"who" has only one form, but it can refer to plural nouns: Who were the Etruscans? Who are all those people waiting outside?

0

There is at least one other common possibility that I do not see listed:

Who are all of you?

with "all of you" being synonymous with "you all."

Another example: Where are all of you going to eat?

0

In short:

There is no plural form for "Wh" questions. They are the same thing whether is singular or plural.

Examples:

Singular: "who are you?"

Plural: "Who are you"?

In this case, people should understand you according to your lookout and body language.

-2

It's just like "What" "HOW", they are not nouns. Singleton or plural form only apply to nouns

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