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Which one of the following is correct:

  1. What do residential areas in a big city look like, and who lives there?

  2. What do residential areas in a big city look like, and who live there?

There are more people there, so would "live" be correct?

  • Both are grammatical and are standard English. As to which is more appropriate, then, it depends on the author and on what the author is trying to say. Here's a post that has some related info: Which is the correct question (“Who has” vs “Who have”)? – F.E. Mar 5 '15 at 0:24
  • Notice that 'Is “who” singular or plural?' is quite a different question from 'Which one of the following [two alternatives] is correct [/ preferable]?'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 5 '15 at 18:37
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This is a compound sentence. Try breaking it apart.

What do residential areas in a big city look like? Who lives there?

"Who live there?" would sound wrong, no? While "who" might refer to many people, it is treated as singular in an interrogative where the verb acting on the interrogative pronoun isn't a form of "to be".

  • Who lives there?
  • Who does that?
  • Who eats this kind of food?

If that verb is a form of "to be", then the verb agrees with the number of the predicate.

  • Who are the people that live there?
  • Who are the people that do that?
  • Who are the people that eat this kind of food?
  • What are you including as copular verbs? The term is ill-defined. Be does seem to be very special in this respect, but seem and appear also take plural agreement: 'Who seem best suited to these conditions?' – Edwin Ashworth Mar 4 '15 at 23:36
  • Could you provide a grammar source to support your opinion? – F.E. Mar 5 '15 at 0:13
  • Who the heck is upvoting this answer? – F.E. Mar 5 '15 at 2:50
  • @EdwinAshworth To my ears, using any verb other than "be" in the plural sounds unnatural at best. – Paul Rowe Mar 5 '15 at 14:59
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    Who haven't faced each other in the competition yet? obviously takes an obligatory plural verb agreement – Edwin Ashworth Mar 5 '15 at 22:50
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Saying who lives there is correct. You can't say who live there, however you can say those/the ones who live there but that would change the meaning as follows:

What do residential areas in a big city look like, and who (meaning "what kind of person") lives there?

What do residential areas in a big city look like, and [what do] those who live there [look like]?

  • Could you provide a grammar source to support your opinion? – F.E. Mar 5 '15 at 0:14
  • 'Who live there?' is certainly acceptable as an echo question. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 5 '15 at 15:26
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"Who lives there" would be correct, but the "who" implication for the listener should be understood as "what kind of people"; such as, "well-to-do professionals", "construction workers and lumberjacks", "poor Haitian refugees" or whatever

  • Could you provide a grammar source to support your opinion? – F.E. Mar 5 '15 at 0:15
  • Why can't I, just having come to stay with my aunt in her quaint little village after she's written to me so many times telling me what the locals get up to, point to a lovely little cottage and ask her 'Who lives there?'? – Edwin Ashworth Mar 5 '15 at 15:24
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This is a very intelligent question.

If I recall all such sentences, I see that 'who' in itself is singular. That's because if you ask a simple question, who ______ there? The obvious verb there is 'lives' and not 'live'.

On the other hand, if provided with some context, 'who' can address to a plural word as well.

I'm referring to those who are wearing red tee.

Having said that, 'who' on its own seems singular, but provided with context, can serve to a plural word as well.

  • Too imprecise. There is always context. Who do they think they are? is perfectly grammatical (and probably more importantly, natural-sounding). You probably intend to distinguish between interrogative and relative pronoun usages. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 5 '15 at 15:17

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