1

I am often asked "Who are you?" and "What are you?", but I don't know the difference between these two questions.

Please explain it to me.

  • Who is typically addressed to a person, and what to an object so as the other person stated it is odd, especially out of context. – P VV May 8 '18 at 23:13
8

Who are you?

This is typically asking for your name, but a particular context could indicate a different meaning.

What are you?

This question is very informal and bit odd. It is a very terse question which implies some understood context.

  • If you're in a business meeting it could be your role - e.g. "I'm the accountant"

  • If you discussing two sports teams it could mean "Which team are you a fan of?"

  • If you're in a group that has been discussing the nationality of different folks in the group then the question would be asking for your nationality.

  • If you're in a group of college students discussing what year of college you're in then the answer might be "I'm a freshman" or "I'm a sophomore."

So in general I'd say that the question is looking for a label for some kind of subgroup to which you belong.

  • 1
    Who are you is requesting personal information about yourself ("My name is X, I am clerk, and I am 99 years old). What are you is requesting information about your place in a larger group (e.g. "What are you? I am a human.") – Anaksunaman Oct 26 '15 at 3:44
  • @Anaksunaman - I can't disagree with the first part. Your name you typically be the first thing wanted and then some other infomation depending on context. e.g "I'm Max, the plumber." Until I get to visit Quark on Ferenginar I can't image answering "I am a hewman." – MaxW Oct 26 '15 at 4:21
  • "Arthur Dent? ... Arthur Phillip Dent? ... You're a jerk. A complete kneebiter." - Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged. On topic, yes, you likely wouldn't say this to very many people. =P – Anaksunaman Oct 26 '15 at 4:53
-1

What are you?

Here what is used to ask your occupation.

Who is used to ask only about name and background.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.