I heard the question "Who is it?" in a movie.

[Person A] knocked on a door.

[Person B] came to open the door, but before that he asks "Who is it?"

This three syllables question can be pronounced three different ways with different stress patterns. Here's my try (1st: DA-da-da; 2nd: da-DA-da; 3rd: da-da-DA): https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1924024/whoisit.wav

Even hearing it in a movie I'm still not sure which version is correct in a context like I mentioned above (at a door). Should I stress the word "Who" and let the other two words have a falling intonation? or should I stress the word "is" more?

  • 2
    I would stress is in that situation. Stressing it is very strange, by the way. I can’t think of any natural context for that: if the pronoun needed stressing, I would change it and say “Who’s that?” (or “Who’s this?”). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 16 '15 at 9:51
  • Let me correct myself. There is one context where stressing it makes sense: when playing tag. “Tag, you’re it”, “Who’s it right now?”. That’s a different sense of the word ‘it’, though: “(in children’s games) the player who has to catch the others” (ODO). It would also frequently be put in quotes in that use. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 16 '15 at 10:07
  • You're right. Stressing "it" sounds strange to me too. I was not sure about deciding between "who" or "is" which one is more appropriate to stress in a context like I mentioned above. I thought "who" gets stress because we are interested who is at the door. – Zoltan King Apr 16 '15 at 10:07
  • 1
    I would say that the first sounds the most natural. The one thing to note about "Who is it?" is that, in normal use, it will be said a bit more distinctly than normal face-to-face speech, since typically the two people cannot see each other (for unconscious lip clues) and may not know each other and their speech patterns. This is likely more critical for both understanding and idiomatic usage than is the stress pattern. – Hot Licks Apr 16 '15 at 11:56
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is based on the false premise that one or more of the proposed pronunciations is incorrect. – Drew Apr 16 '15 at 16:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.