who do you think is my girlfriend / my girlfriend is

buoo

Senior Member
Korean
Hi

I'm now trying to explain English wh-questions to my friend through the web chatting. But I've fallen over my own confusion right now. So I'm asking you guys for help.:)

Can you say both 1,2 in a situation where you and your friend are standing near a group of girls, watching them chatting, and you want your friend to guess who your girlfriend is?

1. who do you think is my girlfriend?
2. who do you think my girlfriend is?

I get the sense that you use no.2 to express, maybe, when you ask your friend's opinion about the girlfriend. It's more like "what do you make of her personality" or "what kind of person do you think she is?"

Am I mistaken? It would not be a surprise.:)

Thanks
 
  • buoo

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Thanks Ceremoniar. I'm drawn to this confusion for the syntax reason in the first place, though my question is more about semantic clarification. So, what I'd like to know is whether no.2 is "grammatical" and applicable to the situation.(although this doesn't necessarily guarantee a colloquial speech.)
     

    buoo

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Besides this, there's something else that needs to be answered, if it is allowed. Which one do you think is the base form of structure of the sentence no.1(who do you think is my girlfriend?) before the wh-element undergoes the movement to the front?

    a. do you think [who] is my girlfriend?

    b. [who] is my girlfriend, do you think? -- (This means, "who" didn't go through any movement (over a clause). The sentence was meant to be a question in the first place.)
     
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    Ceremoniar

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    NO, it is not grammatical, though many people would express is in the way that #2 did. The question calls foer which one because it is asking the listenr to make a choice among several entities.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi buoo

    Who do you think is my girlfriend? is a WH-question form of You think {x} is my girlfriend ~ Do you think {x} is my girlfriend?
    Who do you think my girlfriend is? is a WH-question form of You think my girlfriend is {x} ~ Do you think my girlfriend is {x}?

    You could use either in the context you give in post 1, though the first one is the more likely option.

    I agree with Ceremoniar that, in practice, what we'd probably say in your context is Which one do you think is my girlfriend?
     
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    le Grand Soir

    Senior Member
    Anglais, dialecte de San Francisco
    Both 1 & 2 are questions asking for some further information regarding the girlfriend, perhaps her name. By asking which one do you think is my girlfriend, you are clearing referring to a choice amongst the group of girls present.
     

    scrotgrot

    Senior Member
    English - English
    I'm not sure girlfriend is a very good example to use as you're expected to know her. Maybe if we imagine mother instead: imagine a kid given up for adoption speaking to a friend.

    Who do you think my mother is? is a question he could ask his friend wistfully at any time. The friend could reply, That woman who runs the corner shop looks a lot like you. The point is there is no "candidacy" for the post of mother; it's an open question.

    But who do you think is my mother? doesn't work for that situation there. It can only mean there is a line-up of potential mothers, for instance if they'd gone to some sort of mass reunion, and he's asking his friend who out of the line-up he thinks is his mother. He could still use the other question, but it would be much more natural to use which one than who.

    The difference is minimal, to be honest, and a bit of stress on you or my or is or even mother could alter the whole balance of meaning.
     

    buoo

    Senior Member
    Korean
    @Loob: I appreciate your comment on the structure.
    @scrotgrot: I can see what you mean. Very very helpful and enlightening.

    Many thanks to all of you. :)
     
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