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What difference in terms of usage and style would there be between the following sentences:

  1. Those who came yesterday have already left
  2. Who came yesterday have already left
  3. The ones who came yesterday have already left
  • Those who is perfect. Just who sounds wrong to me. The ones who is correct, but should only be used in certain contexts, I'd say, not as a general alternative to those who. – Cerberus Mar 14 '14 at 8:10
  • How do you like Who should run the business is me. – Runglish Mar 14 '14 at 8:54
  • I'm afraid that still sounds wrong. You can only use who without an explicit antecedent if it introduces an indirect question, I should say—not a relative clause as here. I don't know who did it (indirect question). – Cerberus Mar 14 '14 at 9:28
  • A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, 15.9: Nonspecific who is occasionally found in nominal relative clauses that are not functioning as subject complement – Runglish Mar 14 '14 at 9:37
  • Does it have any examples? Does it consider indirect questions relative clauses? – Cerberus Mar 14 '14 at 12:46
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Those who/ The ones who/ All who/ Everyone who/ People who/ Nobody who/ One person who/ Millions who/ The better ones who/ The ones I remember who/

All these are possible, but what you can't say is simply 'Who came yesterday...'

The principle applies to all sorts of things:

Those who came yesterday/ those who are still drinking/ those who are unaccompanied/ those who are wearing shoes/ etc.

  • What do you think of what's written in A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language? – Runglish Mar 14 '14 at 8:58
  • I'm trying to picture a 'nominal relative clause'containing 'who', 'not functioning as subject complement'. Can you give me an example of such a sentence, please? – WS2 Mar 14 '14 at 10:55
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    Who should run the business is me. (A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, 15.9) – Runglish Mar 14 '14 at 13:11
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    Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire (The Merchant of Venice) – Runglish Mar 14 '14 at 13:12
  • @Runglish I am not going to argue with Shakespeare but I have the sense that the translators of the Bible of the same period might have said 'Whosoever chooseth me...'. In modern English I would not say 'Who should run the business is me'. That is not to say it is wrong! I might say 'He who should run the business is me'. – WS2 Mar 14 '14 at 16:30

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