I have found on the internet both versions. Is there a mistaken question, or both are good? Do they have the same meaning, or different one? I know that "the class" means a group of students.

Who in the class smokes?

Who smokes in the class? (As I know it, this word order for questions is more common.)

2 Answers 2


The two sentences in the question have significantly different meanings. Both are grammatical, and reasonably natural, but they cannot be interchanged.

(1) Who in the class smokes?

The above is asking which members of the class are smokers.

(2) Who smokes in the class?

The above is asking who smokes during the class, unless the context makes it clear that a different meaning is intended

In (2) "in the class" modifies "smokes" and so it refers to smoking that happens "in the class". However in (1) "in the class" restricts "who" ans so is asking which of the people who are in the class smokes.

These meanings follow the general principle that a modifier normally applies to the element adjacent to it, most often to the element immediately before it. Context can alter this "rule" which is really more of a default assumption.

Some additional examples:

(3) Who in the room speaks Spanish?

This is asking which of the people now present in the room is able to speak Spanish

(4) Who speaks Spanish in the room?

This is asking which people speak Spanish (habitually or occasionally) while in the room. (Unless later context makes a different meaning clear.)

  • I would argue that the second construction in each example can carry the first meaning if the context makes it clear enough. (We seldom see specific rooms dedicated to a language.) But the first construction eliminates potential confusion. ("People all over the country drive." "People drive all over the country.") Oct 12, 2021 at 17:45
  • 1
    @Andy I have edited to mention that context can change the meaning. Oct 12, 2021 at 17:48
  • @David Siegel, So, "Who smokes in the class?" & "Who smokes in class?" have the same meaning?
    – Sergei
    Oct 12, 2021 at 19:11
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    @Sergey They might well. Context could clarify the meaning of "Who smokes in the class?"while "Who smokes in class?" pretty surely means "Who smokes during class?" Oct 12, 2021 at 19:15

The first one sounds more natural to me. The second one could be interpreted as 'which students are smoking inside the classroom' instead of 'which students in this class take part in smoking'.

Also, changing 'the' to 'this' makes both sentences more clear.

Who in this class smokes?

Who smokes in this class?

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