You who has – you who have

WhoDear All,
Today I would like to speak about an interesting syntactic construction consisting of the following elements:

pronoun + who + verb

The reason why this construction is indeed interesting is because it raises the question, what form of the verb should we use after “who”: with -s (3rd pers. sing.) or without -s?

As a general rule, “who” is a pronoun which always requires the verb in 3rd pers. sing (i.e. -s), for instance:

  1. Who has read the Bible in four languages?

The answer can be, for example, “Tom has” or “Tom and Julia have”. The point here is that regardless of what the answer could be, who is the subject of this simple interrogative sentence and as such is used with a verb in 3rd pers. sing.

However, sometimes “who” is used in complex sentences within a relative clause:

2. Do you know the people who live next door to us?

3. It was Tom who has prepared this beautiful gift for you.

4. It is you who has (or: have) read the Bible in four languages.

in this construction the use of -s depends on the context, unlike the previous case (a simple interrogative sentence): when speak about several people (plural noun) like in example 2 above, the verb takes the plural form (without -s); but when we speak about one person, then the verb is used in its 3rd pers. sing. form (example 3). In some cases, it is possible to use either form: without -s or with -s depending on the context. For instance, in example 4, we can use either “has” (if speak about Tom only) or “have” (if we speak about Tom and Julia).

Notably, although “you” is typically used with verbs in the plural form (e.g. Mr. Smith, you look [not looks] happy today; Linda, you were [not was] great in the performance today), in “who-clauses” we can use you + who + verb either in singular or in plural forms (example 4). Thus, the conjugation of the verb in the “who-clause” depends on the logical (semantic) number of the noun in the main clause, but not on its person.

Sometimes, the pronoun “who” is used in constructions like:

5. You who has (or: have) extinguished fire efficiently and effectively deserve a medal.

This construction is characteristic of the direct speech. The use of the verb (with or without -s) follows the same rule as verbs in the relative clauses discussed above. In fact, this is a type of a relative clause: you … deserve a medal [main clause] and who has/have extinguished fire [relative clause]. Since the word “deserve” is a part of the main clause and refers to “you” (2nd pers. pl.), it should be only used without “-s” in this case.

In brief, this post has addressed the question of conjugating verbs after the relative pronoun “who”. Specifically, it has been pointed out that in simple interrogative questions, “who” requires the verb in the third person singular (with -s), whereas in relative clauses, the verb can be used either with or without -s depending on the number of the noun in the main clause (but not on its grammatical person).


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