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I often tend to say something like

Who all is coming to the movies?

And my friends correct me that I should be saying

Who all are coming to the movies?

So which one is correct?

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FYI it's rather "Southern US English" Who all is coming to the movies? Y'all? –  Joe Blow Jun 22 '11 at 19:13
    
@Joe Guess I got it from reading too many English novels! Anyway thanks for clearing that up! –  Uday Kanth Jun 22 '11 at 19:19
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In (American) dialects that use this variant, "who all" is actually a pronoun in its own right; it's sometimes written "who-all". (Bear in mind that this is an extremely informal usage, and so it's rarely if ever written down at all by the people who actually use it - only by ethnographers and linguists who are studying the dialect, and novelists trying to add a little local color.) The region where it's used overlaps, but isn't exactly contiguous with, the region(s) where "you all" (or "y'all") is common.

In usage, just as "you all" can be treated as a substitute for "you", "who all" takes the place of "who" - so I think you'll find that most American speakers (who would use this construction) would ask Who all is coming to the movies?

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Note who all is coming versus who all are coming - the former is more common, and more importantly, many of the speakers are from different communities. A lot of US speakers for "who all is"; a lot of Indian speakers for "who all are". –  aedia λ Jun 22 '11 at 19:44
    
I also found this discussion that didn't stay on topic long that suggests "who all are coming" might be the Indian English version. –  aedia λ Jun 22 '11 at 19:54
    
@aedia - I'll edit my answer, then, to reflect "in American English usage"... –  MT_Head Jun 22 '11 at 19:59
    
Thanks! I think that's as accurate as we're gonna get right now, unless someone pops out of the woodwork having done a dissertation on who all :) –  aedia λ Jun 22 '11 at 20:05
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Both are incorrect.

Who is coming to the movies? or Who wants to come to the movies? is more appropriate.

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Yes, but we're not talking about academic writing here; this is just speaking with people one would go to the movies with. "Who all" expresses something more precise than "who" (namely, the fact that you expect an answer that is multiple people). –  Kosmonaut Jun 22 '11 at 19:13
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It's not an expression I've ever heard in Britain. So perhaps it's colloquial. –  osknows Jun 22 '11 at 19:19
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@Joe - 1000% clear to an American perhaps, to an Australian it is clear but jars. –  dave Jun 22 '11 at 19:58
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@Kosmonaut: The rub is that English doesn't differentiate singular and plural in interrogative pronouns, like it does with subjective, objective, and possessive pronouns. So unlike "y'all" which tries to replace the redundancy of "you" as plural pronoun, there's no comparable redundant plural interrogative pronoun. It's solving a problem that doesn't even exist; it may even be creating a problem to solve. –  Mike DeSimone Jun 22 '11 at 21:00
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@Mike DeSimone: The problem does exist, and it is (from the speaker's perspective): "I want to know who is coming to the movies. I don't just want to know one or some of the people coming to the movies; I want to have the complete list of people coming to the movies". This is where "who all is coming" is useful. –  Kosmonaut Jun 22 '11 at 22:22
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