wer + plural verb?

  • Hutschi

    Senior Member
    This is correct, but this is the polite form using the plural. It can mean (and usually means) a single person and more than one person, depending on context.
    But in "wer sind sie?" (Who are they?") you have a "normal" plural.
    Other examples are "Wer seid ihr?" The verb is related to "Sie", "sie", and "ihr" in these cases.

    In "Wer kommt zur Party" it is another case. "Kommt" is related to "wer".
     

    ablativ

    Senior Member
    German(y)
    Wer sind Sie? Correct??
    Thanks

    Yes, that's right. Wer sind Sie? = who are you? Sie = singular and plural. (Polite form of addressing this question to someone/several persons)

    In the given context you could say:

    Wer sind die Leute, die zur Party kommen?

    Edit: mit Hutschis Beitrag gekreuzt
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    In English, as in German, a singular verb is used with the question-word "who", even if you know the answer will be plural:

    "Who's coming to the party?"
    "Wer kommt zur Party?"

    Exception: if the verb is "to be", and what stands to the right of this verb is plural, then the plural verb-form is used:

    "Who are his friends?"
    "Wer sind seine Freunde?" (I assume this is correct.)

    I suppose one would argue that in this case, "his friends" and "seine Freunde" are the subjects.

    Another verb that might take a plural "who"/"wer", for similar reasons, is "seem"/"scheinen":

    Who seem_ to be his friends?
    Wer scheinen seine Freunde zu sein?

    For me, the English is correct, and the German should be too.

    (Mit abs Beitrag gekreutz...)
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Another verb that might take a plural "who"/"wer", for similar reasons, is "seem"/"scheinen":

    Who seem_ to be his friends?
    Wer scheinen seine Freunde zu sein?

    For me, the English is correct, and the German should be too.
    Wer scheint zu kommen? (singular)
    Wer scheinen sie zu sein? (plural)

    So it is not the verb scheinen which has this property. The peculiarity of the sentences wer sind sie/wer seinen sie zu sein seems to e that wer is not the subject of the sentences. Here wer stands for predicative nouns and is therefore in nominative.
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    I suppose one would argue that in this case, "his friends" and "seine Freunde" are the subjects.

    Another verb that might take a plural "who"/"wer", for similar reasons, is "seem"/"scheinen":
    ... So it is not the verb scheinen which has this property. The peculiarity of the sentences wer sind sie/wer scheinen sie zu sein seems to be that wer is not the subject of the sentences. Here wer stands for predicative nouns and is therefore in nominative.
    I think we're actually both right. I agree that who/wer is not the subject of these sentences (see above), but is predicative and therefore nominative.

    So we need a verb that has the property of allowing nominatives on both sides (like sein), or a verb that has the property of being "transparent" (Wer scheinen seine Freunde zu sein means Wer, scheint es, sind seine Freunde, so we're back to Wer sind seine Freunde). scheinen allows wer to "step over" it and play pred nom to a following sein. scheinen is very unusual in having this "property".
     

    Kurtchen

    Senior Member
    German - Norddeutschland
    scheinen is very unusual in having this "property".

    I wouldn't call it 'unusual' really. Wer glauben (denken, annehmen, vorgeben, können) sie (zu) sein? are similar examples and this is by no means an exhaustive list. None of these require wer to be the subject. :)
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    I wouldn't call it 'unusual' really. Wer glauben (denken, annehmen, vorgeben, können) sie (zu) sein? are similar examples and this is by no means an exhaustive list. None of these require wer to be the subject. :)
    Thanks for the additional verbs. Yes, there are more ways to get a non-subject wer than I realized. wollen would seem to be another good example.

    There's something I find very interesting about some of these, like Wer denken sie zu sein?, being grammatical sentences. (Am I correct that this means something like, Wer sind sie, ihrer Meinung nach?)

    Consider: Corresponding to
    1a. Wer wollen sie sein?
    we have an answer like
    1b. Sie wollen die reichsten Männer der Stadt sein.
    Similarly:
    2a. Wer scheinen sie zu sein?
    2b. Sie scheinen die reichsten Männer der Stadt zu sein.
    All of these seem fine. Since you say 3a is grammatical, we would expect an answer like 3b to be possible:
    3a. Wer denken sie zu sein?
    3b. Sie denken die reichsten Männer der Stadt zu sein.
    3b sounds bad to me and I'm wondering if it is, or if English is leading me astray (the English equivalents of both 3a and 3b are impossible). So I'd appreciate some native speakers judgment. Thank you!
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Thanks for the additional verbs. Yes, there are more ways to get a non-subject wer than I realized. wollen would seem to be another good example.
    I honestly think you're making life unnecessarily difficult for yourself here. The answer is quite simple: In all of these cases the nominative wer is related to zu sein which commands a predicative noun and this predicative noun is what wer stands for. The finite verbs (wollen, scheinen, etc) are irrelevant to this.

    3b. Sie denken die reichsten Männer der Stadt zu sein.
    3b sounds bad to me
    3b is a very common thing to say. It is completely correct and idiomatic (provided "Sie" stands for a group of people and is not the formal "you" applied to a single person, of course).
     
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    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    3b. Sie denken, die reichsten Männer der Stadt zu sein.
    Shouldn't be a comma there? For me it looks bad without comma. Maybe this is what Dan2 meant. When I speak it, and there is no comma, it sounds bad for me, too.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I think every German native speaker would use a comma here. But for an English speaker, the comma wouldn't make any sense there. The meanings of comma are quite different in German and English. It is unlikely that the missing comma should have irritated an English native speaker.
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    The answer is quite simple: In all of these cases the nominative wer is related to zu sein which commands a predicative noun and this predicative noun is what wer stands for.
    We've never been in disagreement about that.
    The finite verbs (wollen, scheinen, etc) are irrelevant to this.
    Well the finite verb has to be able to take (zu) sein as a complement. Not every verb can do that. But many can, as I've already acknowledged. (There are some facts about English that differ from German that led me to think the class was very constrained. PM if interested.)
    3b sounds bad to me and I'm wondering if it is, or if English is leading me astray
    3b is a very common thing to say. It is completely correct and idiomatic
    Thanks! That's what I wanted to know. (In English you can't say They think/believe to be rich. One correct form is They think/believe themselves to be rich.)
    3b. Sie denken, die reichsten Männer der Stadt zu sein.
    Shouldn't be a comma there? For me it looks bad without comma. Maybe this is what Dan2 meant. When I speak it, and there is no comma, it sounds bad for me, too.
    No, I would've judged it bad even with the comma.
    I think every German native speaker would use a comma here. But for an English speaker, the comma wouldn't make any sense there. The meanings of comma are quite different in German and English.
    Well just a minute...:) It would seem quite wrong to me to write Sie denken, sie haben einen Hund gesehen without a comma, even tho I write They think they ... in English. So my native language doesn't condemn me to a life of insensitivity to the rules of German comma placement.:)
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It would seem quite wrong to me to write Sie denken, sie haben einen Hund gesehen without a comma
    But you did write Sie denken die reichsten Männer der Stadt zu sein without a comma.;) For a German native speaker (at least one who learned comma rules prior to 1996) the missing comma sticks out like a sore thumb (not so much for me but I'm dyslexic, so I don't count).

    But that was not my point. I know your German is extremely good and you have a good intuition for the language and I apologize, if you feel insulted. It was only the missing comma which made the sentence look wrong in Hutschi's eyes. My point was that this is unlikely to be the reason why you considered it wrong.
     
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    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Thanks. No, no insult at all. Rather I was exploring the logic of your comment; a common issue, maybe it's worth a few more words. Suppose I said I found (1) bad:
    1. Sie denken, zu sein reiche Männer
    and Hutschi commented that the word order is wrong, it should be
    2. Sie denken, reiche Männer zu sein
    and "maybe that's why Dan found (1) bad".

    One might reply, "oh that couldn't be, (2) has a word order that's not found in English; (1) is actually closer to English". True, but this particular aspect of German grammar is something I've so thoroughly assimilated that (2) actually sounds much better to me than (1). Hutsch would've been correct.

    But you're right - I haven't mastered all the comma rules. I feel a strong need for a comma in Sie denken, sie haben ... but I feel uncertain about Sie scheinen(,) reich zu sein. You were right to assume that the missing comma was not the problem.

    Well, I learned something new, and maybe a German native speaker or two was previously unaware that you can't say They think to be rich men in English.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    But you're right - I haven't mastered all the comma rules. I feel a strong need for a comma in Sie denken, sie haben ... but I feel uncertain about Sie scheinen(,) reich zu sein. You were right to assume that the missing comma was not the problem.
    No need to change your feeling. Since 1996, the comma has been optional (See here, §75.E2; rules §75.1 to §75.3 where the comma is mandatory don't apply to the sentence in question). ;) But for people who went through German high school prior to 1996 it simply looks wrong without it.
     
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