Main definitions of who in English

: who1WHO2

who1

Pronunciation /hʊ//huː/

pronoun

  • 1interrogative pronoun What or which person or people.

    ‘who is that woman?’
    ‘I wonder who that letter was from’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘Mr Summers said it is hard to plan what the group will be doing as he does not know who will audition.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘No doubt when we arrive the press will be wondering who all these shiny new people are!’
    • ‘You can listen to the bands, check the odds and see who you'd pick, and bet on them to win.’
    • ‘As yet we haven't been given any clues as to who can support Hounsou in the lead role.’
  • 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.’
    • ‘He would be in much the same position as the farmer who previously put his cows in the field.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He takes me on a tour, and we pass several attractive women who all smile at him in a hopeful way.’
    • ‘It is impossible to write an honest letter to somebody who may send it on to a third party.’
    • ‘My thanks to my good friend Ken Hom who is a wonderful cook and a brilliant presenter.’
    • ‘Bobbies on the beat have been told to keep an eye out for a killer who could be hiding in Southend.’
    • ‘The rain was pouring in, and we had some friends with us who had brought some seafood.’
    • ‘The vouchers are sent to the group who can either use them in store or exchange them for cash.’
    • ‘A gun was held to a teenage girl's neck by a mugger who robbed her of her mobile phone.’
    • ‘He was a good guy who kept me informed of what was going on with the other counselors.’
    • ‘I have been in contact with a wonderful band who are very keen to come to Pewsey and play.’
    • ‘They are just a normal couple and their kids are just everyday kids who play in the street.’
    • ‘Hannah Start met one of the more seriously injured who is on the long road to recovery.’
    • ‘John opened the door to be confronted by two youths who threw a blazing firework at him.’
    • ‘Kelly is a popular pupil who has been elected on to the school council by her peers.’
    • ‘He ran the ball up the right wing and slipped it to Smith who had moved in to a central striking role.’
    • ‘Another motorist who was filling his car said he had seen a young man jump in the car and speed off.’
    • ‘At home, I sit down to reply to all the boys and girls who leave letters for me in my postbox.’
    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?; 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 (and, where applicable, to put the preposition at the end of the sentence): who do you wish to speak to?; who do you think we should support? Such uses are today broadly accepted in standard English. 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’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘One day he saw me and signed to me with his hand, as who should say, ‘What is that?’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The Greeks called them Anticheir, as who should say, another hand.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Mr. Soros may not be seeking a rider on an appropriations bill, but who is he to determine the public interest?’
      • ‘But who are you to say that they wouldn't have the scars from living with a bad marriage, either?’
      • ‘But who am I to talk in my baggy shirt and jeans with a jelly stain on the knee?’
      • ‘Still, who am I to question the editorial wisdom of BBC Classical Music TV, or whatever they're called this week?’
      • ‘I mean, this is the United States of America, and who am I to tell someone they can or cannot serve their country?’
      • ‘Now, who am I to remark on one person's habit when my own recycling bin is overflowing with Pepsi cans?’
      • ‘There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and who am I to say how anyone should ‘view’ art?’
      • ‘Now, all I can hope is that we give similar opinions, as who am I to question this man's years of clinical experience?’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘But you know, who am I to advise the Catholic Church not being Catholic myself?’

Origin

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

Pronunciation

who

/hʊ//huː/

Main definitions of who in English

: who1WHO2

WHO2

  • World Health Organization.