is the work of whom (quiz question)

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Senior Member
Hi everyone,

A quiz question I encountered in my native Hungarian a few days ago got me thinking.
In a question such as the following, would it be possible to say "...of whom"? If the answer is no, which of my other suggestions do you think fits best (and if none of them do, what would you say/put in a quiz like this?)

Spartacus, a ballet in three acts is the work of whom?

My other tries:
1. Spartacus, a ballet in three acts is the work of what artist?
2. Spartacus, a ballet in three acts is whose work?
3. Spartacus, a ballet in three acts was written by whom?
4. Who wrote Spartacus, a ballet in three acts?
5. Who is the author of Spartacus, a ballet in three acts?

The ones I feel most comfortable with are 1, 4 and 5, but I'm just curious as to whether it's possible to hew closer to the original which would literally translate to what I originally suggested (number "0" :)) but which I'm not sure would be grammatical, nor do I know if 2 and 3 would work.

What would you expect to see as part of a quiz (which as far as I can tell has a pretty well-established sentence structure in use in most languages)?

Thanks in advance!
  • KennyHun

    Senior Member
    Yeah I forgot about that being one of the other reasons I was looking for something closer to the original....I'm not sure what the verb for creating/composing a ballet would be, but that's a question for another day perhaps. :)

    Thanks a lot!


    Senior Member
    "What artist" is too general for me when you are actually asking who the composer is/was. Any adjective could answer such a question. If Spartacus is known to be a ballet, I would expect someone composed it, so 'Who composed Spartacus, a ballet...'


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    "What artist" is not too general, it's at least borderline incorrect. We tend not to describe composers as artists, illogical though that may seem. We tend to reserve the word 'artist' for performers.

    Quiz questions tend to set the scene (context) first, while keeping the specifics of the question as late as possible. This would exclude options 4 and 5.
    I would ask: The music for Spartacus, a ballet in three acts, was written by which composer?
    Outside a quiz context, if I simply wanted to know the answer, I would ask: Who composed the music for the ballet 'Spartacus'?


    Senior Member
    English, USA
    No ballet expert here, but as Edinburgher suggests, ballets are a combination of music and choreography. So first the music is composed or written, then the dance is choreographed.

    As to the specifics of "whom" it is both the direct object (DO) and indirect object (IO) of "who". It is an archaic leftover from when English was an inflected language, about a thousand years ago. You use "whom" when you would use "him", for example. So "of whom", "to whom", "for whom", "with whom" etc. are all correct.

    The difficulty as I see it is that "the work of whom" is simply not very idiomatic English. In Latin-based languages it is perfectly normal to stack up "of this, of that, of everything" (de X de Y de Z), but not in English. In my view, when you use "of" for agency (the work of the police, the statements of Barack Obama) you start treading into difficult territory. It becomes somewhat formal and stylized.


    Senior Member
    English but my first language was German
    The phrasing Spartacus, a three-act ballet makes your sentences sound very clunky. On the one hand, it assumes that the hearer knows what Spartacus is, but on the other hand it contains a definition designed to explain Spartacus to someone who does _not_ know what Spartacus is. You should replace it with the three-act ballet Spartacus, which makes clear that you expect your hearer to know which Spartacus you mean (the three-act version, not some other Spartacus)

    You probably know that the normal way to ask this question in English is Who wrote/composed/choreographed the three-act ballet Spartacus? (your choices 4 and 5).

    Your choice 1 sounds like the way a host of a game show would ask the question.
    Your choice 3 sounds unusual, but your choice 2 sounds really strange.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    Here's a late answer, I'm just going through my threads now and realizing there are some answers I have not yet seen. Thank you all for your contributions.

    @exgerman: Good observation, thank you. But in a quiz-style question like option 1, would your proposed version work? "The three-act ballet Spartacus is the work of what artist/composer?" Or did you mean that only for the other, more regular-sounding version? (Let's forget about the weird-sounding ones I came up with as alternatives, they indeed sound somewhat bizarre upon second reading even to my non-native ears.)
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