a list of the players who have been invited.

a list of who have been invited.

Can I reduce the 1st phrase like 2nd?

or should I have used 'whom' instead of 'who'?

  • I think you can. And I also think the 2nd phrase should be as is: 'a list of who has been invited', not 'whom has been invited'.
    – Mikiko
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 8:20
  • 1
    A list of the players invited
    – V.V.
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 8:39
  • Yes, I think you can. It would then be a 'fused' relative construction where "who(m)" is simultaneously antecedent and relative pronoun, i.e. "the players who(m)". Since "the players" is subject of the relative clause, the pronoun should be subjective case "who".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 9:15
  • 1
    Can you give us more context? I'm trying to imagine a way that you could use the second phrasing, and it doesn't sound likely, but I don't want to say it's impossible.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


a list of who have been invited

Yes, it's perfectly alright to do that.

As Bill said in his comment, it becomes a 'fused' or 'free' relative clause where there is no antecedent. The interpretation of the relative clause is "the players have been invited". "Who" would be the correct pronoun because it is understood as the subject of the 'free' relative clause.

  • 3
    Better would be "A list of those who have been invited," as "who have been invited" should modify a noun. Otherwise "who" takes on the role of direct object, and the sentence shortens to "A list of who" with a modifying clause of "have been invited" which I don't believe conforms to standard rules.
    – Epicedion
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 17:49
  • 4
    I think this must be an open interrogative content clause and not a fused relative construction, because outside of free choice constructions (which this doesn't seem to be) and a few fossilized examples from when it was grammatical, who doesn't work in fused relatives, only whoever does.
    – user230
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 18:25
  • "Send me a list of who all is coming to the party". Is "who all" a variant of "whoever"?
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 20:17
  • @snailplane I came back to this question just to mention what you commented. But I am at loss distinguishing one from the other :( And if we can't prove that it's not a fused relative, we will consider this sentence to be incorrect. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 1:49
  • @PaulM please read Snail's comment over again. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 17:43

It would most correctly be

a list of those who have been invited.

Wikipedia says that fused relative clauses should be headed by whoever, whomever, whatever, or what. The construction "a list of who has been invited" is a fused clause, because who is an object both in of who and the object in whom have been invited. So the OP's sentence is not grammatical, since it's headed by who.

So you could use whoever grammatically, as in the following example from the M-W dictionary:

A prize will be given to whoever solves the riddle.

However, I think using two different pronouns those who is more idiomatic in this case. Why? Because the invitations have presumably been issued to a select group and not just anybody, and whoever gives the connotation that anybody is eligible.

  • Wiki conveniently forgets that You can invite who you like is perfectly grammatical.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 16:58
  • 1
    @BillJ: That seems to be one of a few exceptions, and it may not be considered grammatical in all regions. See this languagelog blog post. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 15:40


1. a list of the players who have been invited.

2. a list of who have been invited.

OP asked whether sentence #1 can be reduced to sentence #2. I would say, it depends on context.

That who-clause can either be an embedded open interrogative clause or a fused relative construction. It will depend on the context. who can head a fused relative clause but only in very restrictive situations. On the other hand it can freely sit on the head of an open interrogative clause.

So it's very clear if the complement of a list of is an open interrogative clause, we can reduce sentence #1 to sentence #2. But if it's a fused relative construction sentence #2 is wrong unless it falls under "free choice construction".

3. I don't know what she wrote. [OPEN INTERROGATIVE]

4. I don't like what she wrote. [FUSED RELATIVE]

Consider the above two sentences. Both of them have a same what-clause, same structure. But they are different. In sentence #3, it's an Open interrogative clause, and in #4 it's a fused relative construction.

So now the question comes whether who have been invited in a list of who have been invited is a fused relative construction or an open interrogative clause. As I already mentioned, it depends on the context.

All you have to do is to sit down and collect the responses and prepare a list of who is going to attend the wedding. [Open Interrogative Clause]

This is an Open Interrogative Clause, and who comes at its head. We don't know who is going to attend the wedding and the interrogative clause just answers - "Who is going to attend the wedding?"

On page 40, you will find a list of who you have to write for change of address. [Open Interrogative]

This is also an Open Interrogative Clause. Here also the interrogative clause answers the questions - "Who you have to write for change of address?"

In OP's example sentence also it's an open interrogative - who have been invited.

a list of who have been invited

Let's say there are a house full of people. Some of them were invited. We don't know who among them were invited.

Give me a list of who have been invited.

Who have been invited? Answer to this question is listed in details in the list.

[There is no doubt but that in all these example sentences those who-clause after a list of is an open interrogative clause. But it's really hard to explain. I myself couldn't imagine any situation or sentence where a fused relative clause with who at its head can be placed after a list of]

  • In the interrogative reading of your example, the meaning would be "On page 40, you will find a list of the answer the question ''Who will you have to write to for change of address"'. That makes no sense at all. I don't think you've proved anything, one way or the other.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 16:34
  • The rule "never put who at the head of a fused relative clause" is an excellent one to teach to ESL students. I don't think you can ever go wrong by using those who instead of who in this case, and all these complicated and rare exceptions to this rule are much too confusing, when this is a construction that native English speakers use quite rarely. Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 16:43
  • The answer is that if it can be shown to be a 'free choice' construction, then the fused reading is okay. Otherwise, it's ungrammatical. But I can't see an interrogative reading here since it can't be glossed with the usual formula "the answer to the question".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 17:08
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    The basic distinction is between a factive wh-clause, with presupposed content -- i.e, a proposition known and accepted as true; and a wh-clause whose answer is unknown. The predicate decides in each case; some predicates are factive, others aren't. No matter what you call them (I follow Ross in calling the factive ones Conjunctive wh-clauses, and the unknown ones Disjunctive wh-clauses). Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 14:28
  • @JohnLawler Thank you for your valuable input. So after a list of the wh-clause must be a conjunctive one. Right? And that's in CGEL term a fused relative clause? Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 14:40

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