Main definitions of who in US English:

: who1WHO2

who1

pronoun

  • 1interrogative pronoun What or which person or people.

    ‘who is that woman?’
    ‘I wonder who that letter was from’
    • ‘No doubt when we arrive the press will be wondering who all these shiny new people are!’
    • ‘Mr Summers said it is hard to plan what the group will be doing as he does not know who will audition.’
    • ‘As yet we haven't been given any clues as to who can support Hounsou in the lead role.’
    • ‘Who believes in intelligence reports?’
    • ‘It was just begging me to open it and find out who was sending me an anonymous letter.’
    • ‘If you were a London cabbie, who would you most like to have in the back of your cab?’
    • ‘Becki wondered who had done it and whether they would let her do the same next year.’
    • ‘I wonder who's going to turn first out of all those Conservatives involved?’
    • ‘You can listen to the bands, check the odds and see who you'd pick, and bet on them to win.’
  • 2relative pronoun Used to introduce a clause giving further information about a person or people previously mentioned.

    ‘Joan Fontaine plays the mouse who married the playboy’
    • ‘David admits he's a floating voter who will make up his mind on how to vote nearer the time.’
    • ‘John opened the door to be confronted by two youths who threw a blazing firework at him.’
    • ‘He passed my letter on to Inspector Read who hoped it would be the end of the matter.’
    • ‘Firefighters had to help a woman who was trapped in the car and a man stuck in the cab of one of the lorries.’
    • ‘Hannah Start met one of the more seriously injured who is on the long road to recovery.’
    • ‘It is impossible to write an honest letter to somebody who may send it on to a third party.’
    • ‘At home, I sit down to reply to all the boys and girls who leave letters for me in my postbox.’
    • ‘I have been in contact with a wonderful band who are very keen to come to Pewsey and play.’
    • ‘Kelly is a popular pupil who has been elected on to the school council by her peers.’
    • ‘Another motorist who was filling his car said he had seen a young man jump in the car and speed off.’
    • ‘Bobbies on the beat have been told to keep an eye out for a killer who could be hiding in Southend.’
    • ‘The vouchers are sent to the group who can either use them in store or exchange them for cash.’
    • ‘He was a good guy who kept me informed of what was going on with the other counselors.’
    • ‘My thanks to my good friend Ken Hom who is a wonderful cook and a brilliant presenter.’
    • ‘He takes me on a tour, and we pass several attractive women who all smile at him in a hopeful way.’
    • ‘He ran the ball up the right wing and slipped it to Smith who had moved in to a central striking role.’
    • ‘He would be in much the same position as the farmer who previously put his cows in the field.’
    • ‘A gun was held to a teenage girl's neck by a mugger who robbed her of her mobile phone.’
    • ‘They are just a normal couple and their kids are just everyday kids who play in the street.’
    • ‘The rain was pouring in, and we had some friends with us who had brought some seafood.’
    1. 2.1archaic The person that; whoever.
      ‘who holds the sea, perforce doth hold the land’
      • ‘Who rides at the tail of a Border thief, he sits not long at his meat.’

Usage

A continuing debate in English usage is the question of when to use who and when to use whom. According to formal grammar, who forms the subjective case and so should be used in subject position in a sentence, as in who decided this? The form whom, on the other hand, forms the objective case and so should be used in object position in a sentence, as in whom do you think we should support? or to whom do you wish to speak? Although there are some speakers who still use who and whom according to the rules of formal grammar as stated here, there are many more who rarely use whom at all; its use has retreated steadily and is now largely restricted to formal contexts. The normal practice in modern English is to use who instead of whom (who do you think we should support?) and, where applicable, to put the preposition at the end of the sentence (who do you wish to speak to?). Such uses are today broadly accepted in standard English, but in formal writing it is best to maintain the distinction. On the use of who and that in relative clauses see that

Phrases

  • as who should say

    • archaic As if to say.

      ‘he meekly bowed to him, as who should say “Proceed.”’
      • ‘He put up his shoulders to his cars, and spread out the palms of his hands, as who should say, There is nothing further to be said.’
      • ‘All the characters and all the incidents in the play have been devised for the glorification of Cyrano, and are but, as who should say, so many rays of lime-light converging upon him alone.’
      • ‘The Greeks called them Anticheir, as who should say, another hand.’
      • ‘One day he saw me and signed to me with his hand, as who should say, ‘What is that?’’
      • ‘Mr. Snagsby addresses an explanatory cough to Mrs. Snagsby, as who should say, ‘My dear, a customer!’’
  • who am I (or are you, is he, etc.) to do something

    • What right or authority do I (or you, he, etc.) have to do something.

      ‘who am I to object?’
      • ‘But you know, who am I to advise the Catholic Church not being Catholic myself?’
      • ‘Now, who am I to remark on one person's habit when my own recycling bin is overflowing with Pepsi cans?’
      • ‘But who are you to say that they wouldn't have the scars from living with a bad marriage, either?’
      • ‘Now, all I can hope is that we give similar opinions, as who am I to question this man's years of clinical experience?’
      • ‘Still, who am I to question the editorial wisdom of BBC Classical Music TV, or whatever they're called this week?’
      • ‘I'm not a member but one of my clients always insists on meeting there, and who am I to argue, given that only members can buy drinks there?’
      • ‘Mr. Soros may not be seeking a rider on an appropriations bill, but who is he to determine the public interest?’
      • ‘There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and who am I to say how anyone should ‘view’ art?’
      • ‘But who am I to talk in my baggy shirt and jeans with a jelly stain on the knee?’
      • ‘I mean, this is the United States of America, and who am I to tell someone they can or cannot serve their country?’

Origin

Old English hwā, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch wie and German wer.

Pronunciation

who

/ho͞o//hu/

Main definitions of who in US English:

: who1WHO2

WHO2

  • World Health Organization.

Pronunciation

WHO

/ˌdəbljuˌeɪtʃˈoʊ//ˌdəblyo͞oˌāCHˈō/