Do, does, did in who-questions

Discussion in 'English Only' started by losilmer, Nov 29, 2008.

  1. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    Hi, consider these sentences:

    "Who called you?"
    "Who did call you?"
    "There called you, who?"

    I've been asked if we have to use the modal "do, does, did" in who-questions.
    I said that we can use then if we want to reinforce or emphasize, but that the general rule is not to use that modal verb. And what about the third sentence?I see no rule to encase it into. Am I correct?
  2. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    The third sentence is not a standard English collocation. Did you mean, "Who called you there?" (meaning "who called you in that place?)

    "Do/does/did" are much more frequently used with "whom" (object):
    Whom did you see?
    To whom do you wish to speak?

    In casual conversation (where "who" often replaces "whom"), you will hear:
    Who do you wish to speak to?
    Who did you call?
  3. Salsamore

    Salsamore Senior Member

    USA English (Mich. & Calif.)
    You have to use the modal if "who" (more formally, "whom") is the direct object of the question:
    Who called you? (The unknown person is the one who called.)
    Who(m) did you call? (The unknown person received the call.)
    I suppose "Who did call you?" could be used for emphasis, but I can't think of a situation where you'd use it. I'd simply use "Who called you?"

    As for your third sentence: I can't figure out what "There called you, who?" means. Can you clarify?
  4. boomcrash New Member

    If it's clear that someone called Bob, but Jill doesn't know who called, they might have a conversation as follows using "Who did call you" for emphasis:

    Jill: Did your mom call you?
    Bob: My mom did not call me.
    Jill: Well, who did call you?
  5. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    To Salsamore. In the third sentence ["There called you, who?"], "There" is placed as a filling or anticipative word, instead of leaving the verb "called" without a subject, like "Called you, who?".

    To Joelline - The third sentence is not a standard English collocation. Did you mean, "Who called you there?" (meaning "who called you in that place?)

    What I want to express is if we can ask for the unknown person who called placing the interrogative pronoun at the end of the sentence. "There" having no meaning at all, as if it were a "filling" word, like in "There has to be a man"="It has to be a man".
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2008
  6. roxcyn

    roxcyn Senior Member

    American English [AmE]
    "Who called you?" ---Asking a question, wanting to know the person that called the person you're talking to.

    "Who did call you?" ----Asking a question, we have talked to the person, but the person didn't tell us the EXACT person who called so we ask another question giving emphasis, well who DID call you then?

    "There called you, who?" ----No, we need a subject & English is not as flexible sometimes as Spanish.

    Let's take "there" out: "Called you, who?" Perhaps we can imagine a little kid or someone learning English to say that. It's not standard, it sounds bad, but we get the idea: "who called you?"

    No, I don't think it works with a filling word. It makes it sound worse. Taking out the filling word we get some idea what we mean, but it's still not standard.
  7. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    Thanks roxcyn. Very clear and convincing explanation.

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