"Who are they?"


November 18, 2017



The word order is not very clear to me. In particular why is it different from the previous very similar questions were the "who" was placed at the start of the sentence?

Thanks in advance!

February 1, 2018


I'm also a learner and not that knowledgeable in Chinese. What I say may be a total nonsense. Someone can confirm or correct this.

I think that's because "they" is a pronoun. My native language is Korean which is surprisingly completely different from Chinese, but same thing applies to Korean.

When the pronoun is on the left hand side, this pronoun refers something that was mentioned before. It gets determined first, so "who" that appears later isn't awkward.

When the pronoun is on the right hand side, it's a bit confusing because it's unclear what "they" refers to. The sentence like that in Korean is unnatural and sounds like "who did something to them" and it feels like "who" and "they" are different people, but still that sounds wrong or incomplete.

If it's not a pronoun, either "who is your father" or "your father is who" both works because "your father" is already fixed or determined.

Again, this may be a total nonsense.

September 8, 2018


Someone please help

June 10, 2018


Yet to be confirmed by a native speaker but I think it has to do with words placement in a sentence. You will find some nice introduction here : https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Chinese_word_order

My guess is that it is linked to the subject of the sentence. In "Who's your dad?" 谁是你的爸爸,the subject is actually "who" 谁 while the rest of the sentence is a complement giving us information about the subject (the subject is your dad).

In the current sentence, the question is "who are they?" as in "concerning the subject 'they', what do we know?". Hence the subject, placed first in the sentence is "they" 他们 while the question part is placed after the subject it is about. 他们是谁?

March 7, 2019


Why is the word order for this one 他们是谁,whereas "Who's your dad?" is 谁是你的爸爸?

April 5, 2018


I tried "她们是谁", can someone explain why it's wrong, or confirm that it's right so it can be reported in the future

December 6, 2017


The answer is probably looking for general "they" rather than feminine "they". The word bank should not have contained both choices or should have accepted either choice.

Interestingly, the subsequent question I received was to translate "Are they in the UK" with feminine they as the only word bank answer.

January 6, 2018


No need for "ma"?

November 18, 2017


Yes. turns declarative statements (e.g., "他们是The Beatles") into yes/no questions (e.g., "他们是The Beatles吗")?

In this example, indicates that the sentence is already a question, so you don't need 吗.

If you're curious, here is a link that explains 吗 in greater detail.

November 18, 2017


I keep forgetting this is an awkward sentence. I try to remember that in Chinese you ask the equivalent of "They are who?" Instead of "Who are they?" :(

July 1, 2019
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