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Is "who" the subject of the sentence? Options
TheParser
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 7:07:15 AM
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NOT A TEACHER

This post is intended for those learners who are interested in sentence analysis.

*****

1. "Who likes ice cream?"

a. I think that all of us agree that the subject of that sentence is "who."

i. "Who" = the subject; "likes" = verb; "ice cream" = object.

2. "Who is the manager?"

a. I immediately chose ""who" as the subject, too.
b. I was shocked recently when I learned at another grammar helpline that I was WRONG.
c. I spent several hours on the Web and those articles confirmed that I was indeed WRONG.
d. MOST sources say that the subject is "the manager."

i. That sentence is in question order.
ii. The sentence actually is "The manager is who?"

(a) "The manager" = the subject.
(b) "is" = linking verb.
(c) "who" = subject(ive) complement.

*****

Some experts explain it this way.

* "Who is he? The King."

"Who" is not, as it might seem to be, the subject. For if we substitute the word which answers the question, the sentence reads "The King is he," or, as we usually say, "He is the King."

The Elements of English Grammar (1904) by William Watson



* "Who are you?"

"Who" is the subject complement; it refers to the subject "you."

English Language Essentials (1995) by Mamie Hixon.

* ""Who came?" "Who" = interrogative subject.
"Who is Henry?" = subject complement.

Advanced English Grammar (2015) by Depraetere and Langford.

(All three books were accessed courtesy of Google.)
thar
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 7:16:01 AM

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I think you can look at this issue another way, as well.

That is a question, not a statement.
A statement can have a subject.
A question can be related to a statement.

You can see it more clearly if you ask a different question.

'Where is he?'

He is there.

You are less likely to think that 'where' is the subject. It is just the added question word.
Evergreen
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 8:43:22 AM
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If the topic embarasses the general questions, the subject definition is easy :

This person likes ice-cream/ Does this person like it ? / Who likes it ?
This person - Who - the subject

The manager is that person / Is the manager that person ? / Who is the manager ?
NOT: WHO IS THAT PERSON (That person is the manager), BUT: WHO IS THE MANAGER (The Manager is Subject)

and Who is a subjective office of the main, as you've noted they can look consequently equiprobable.
Audiendus
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 8:49:13 AM
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TheParser wrote:
2. "Who is the manager?"

I think the sentence analysis depends on the context.

(a) Who is the manager? Is it Mr Smith or Mr Jones? [= the manager is who?]

(b) Who is the manager? Are you the manager, or is he the manager? [which of you two holds the position of manager?]


I would say that "the manager" is the subject in (a), but "who" is the subject in (b).
Medea
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 11:47:26 AM

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Dear all:

"Who" is an interrogative pronoun that is used as a subject
"Whom" is an interrogative pronoun used as an Object
"where" "How" are adverbs.
NancyLee
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 3:14:53 PM
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Dear All,

I remember my teacher describing the interesting world of the verb "to be" when any form of it was used alone.

Who is she? correct
She is who? correct

Whom is she? incorrect
She is whom? incorrect
Who is her? incorrect

Who is she calling? incorrect
She is calling who? incorrect

Whom is she calling? correct
She is calling whom? correct

in other words, nominative forms rule when the verb "to be" is by itself.
NKM
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 4:33:39 PM

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TheParser wrote:

2. "Who is the manager?"

a. I immediately chose ""who" as the subject, too.
b. I was shocked recently when I learned at another grammar helpline that I was WRONG.
c. I spent several hours on the Web and those articles confirmed that I was indeed WRONG.
d. MOST sources say that the subject is "the manager."

══════════════════════════════════════════════

This seems to me a problem of confusion between grammar and semantics.

Semantically, "the manager" is the subject (topic?), but the grammatical subject is "who".

"Most sources" may well disagree with that analysis, but that doesn't mean they're right.

Audiendus
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 6:50:05 PM
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NKM wrote:
Semantically, "the manager" is the subject (topic?), but the grammatical subject is "who".


Can you please define "grammatical subject" (as opposed to the semantic subject)? Can the grammatical complement ever come first?
NKM
Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2016 11:12:10 PM

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I wish I could!

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