While framing a question, many teachers are doubtful when they are testing their students' comprehension of a given passage.

For example, read the following paragraph and answer the following questions

Alexander: I see what you mean, and here I agree with you. The Indian generals are still following the old methods of warfare. Their battle plans are faulty and they depend too much upon their elephants. But as fighters they are wonderful. I have the highest respect for them.

Which of the following questions are/is correct? The question may sound silly to some but it has got its complication for non native speakers because I takes the helping verb do but not does while framing questions and negatives.In the same we say they are friends but they is a pronoun.The question arose even on Linked In where it was discussed very enthusiastically. Unfortunately I lost the link

  1. Who does "I" refer to in the given passage?

  2. Who do "I" refer to in the given passage?

  3. Who do "they" refer to in the given passage?

  4. Who does "they" refer to in the given passage?

I would be grateful if you could clarify my doubts.

  • The answer is the same for why as for what. But it just isn't possible to say without knowing the intended meaning. A word as a word is not the same thing as someone awarded the scare-quotes of dubiosity. It could go either way.
    – tchrist
    Aug 11, 2019 at 6:19
  • If the teacher is asking about 'I' in a first-person narrative, (1) is correct. ('I' is not the teacher!) Aug 11, 2019 at 8:24

1 Answer 1


In a relevant context all but "Who do "I" refer to in the given passage?" could be correct. "They" can be plural or singular so the last two can be correct, but I do not think "I" is ever plural. Without the quotes "Who do I refer to in the given passage?" could be correct if the given passage was from the first person point of view of the teacher but I do not think that is what the question is about.

  • only you could understand my question and answered well Aug 12, 2019 at 14:43

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