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I’m having a very hard time figuring out how to ask which seasons a character is missing from in a television show. I started like this:

“Which seasons is he not in?” but that sounded wrong, so I tried “Which seasons are he not in?” but that also sounds wrong.

I’m having a hard time with this one for some reason.

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bigtop, try recasting the sentence so that it is in standard subject-predicate order.

You wouldn't say, "He are not in which seasons." You would instead say, "He is not in which seasons."

"Which seasons is he not in" would thus be correct.

speedwell2 June 21, 2004, 4:13am

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Uh, how about,

"Which seasons aren't he in?"

are is for plural of seasons.

is would be for one season.

bubba June 23, 2004, 12:45pm

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"Which seasons are not he in?" How does that work?

I agree that in this case it's strange, since "which" is referring to multiple seasons instead of just one.

Anonymous June 23, 2004, 3:11pm

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No, no, people you've got it all wrong.

"Seasons" is not the subject here, it is part of the prepositional phrase that is begun with the "in" that is unfortunately at the end of the sentence. While I am generally opposed to the rule that prepositions should never come at the end of a sentence, this perfectly illustrates the problem of splitting a preposition from the rest of its phrase.

"He" being the subject, you could order the sentence in a more straightforward but no easier to read way like so: "In which seasons is he not?" Even better would be this: "He is not in which seasons?" (as speedwell suggested). Thus it becomes clear that "he" is the subject. (Better yet: "He was not in which seasons?")

To rewrite the sentence so that "seasons" is the subject, you'd have to do something awkward, such as "Which seasons are without him?" or "Which seasons do not have him (in them)?"

Jun-Dai June 23, 2004, 7:42pm

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Not to be pedantic, Jun Dai--although that IS exactly what I AM being, come to think of it--but my example did, in fact, show that "he" was the subject. Perhaps I should have made it clearer for you.

speedwell2 June 24, 2004, 4:19am

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I actually noticed that, but it didn't seem clear enough, because the next two posters seemed to think that "seasons" was the subject. Thus, I attempted to clarify. I should have started the thread with:

"no, no, people (excepting speedwell), you've got it all wrong."

Jun-Dai June 24, 2004, 9:14am

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Just a guess; Don't you people think that "to be in (a show)" is a phrasal verb in "Which seasons is he not in?" which is a spoken way of asking "Which season [is it that] he is not in?".
I have heard people asking for example "What day is today?" instead of saying "What day is it today?"
So I think that not only the verb should be "is" since the subject is "he" but also the place of the "in" is correct.

goossun June 24, 2004, 11:43am

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Nope. In the sentence "Which season is it that he is not in?", the subject still isn't "season," as exemplified by this grammatically incorrect sentence: "Which seasons are it that he is not in?" The subject is "it," and the sentence can be rearranged to the awkward but (I believe) correct "it is which seasons that he is not in?"

In "what day is today?", "today" is the subject. Rearrange the sentences more clearly to "today is what day?". In "what day is it today?", "it" is the subject, and it can be rearranged like this: "It is what day today?" Two different sentences with similar meaning. One is not shorthand for the other; it is a grammatically correct sentence of its own.

Similarly, "which seasons is he not in?" isn't really shorthand for "which seasons is it that he is not in?" because it is a sentence in its own right, though the meaning is essentially the same (the emphasis is shifted to "seasons" somewhat in the longer form).

Anyways, I'm sure we all know that just because a sentence is grammatically correct, it isn't necessarily a good idea.

Jun-Dai June 24, 2004, 12:14pm

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Jun-Dai, I too said that "he" is the subject. Noone said "seasons" is the subject. I was referring to the proposition matter you mentioned. I thought that "in" better stay where it is. You didn't answer if "to be in" could be a phrasal verb or not. I think it could; at least according to the sense show business professionals use it.
The other thing I was thinking this morning while taking shower was that the sentence could vary from "Which seasonS is he not in?" to "Which season is he not in?" according to whether the speaker knows beforehand either "he" is not only in ONE season or more.
What do you think?

goossun June 24, 2004, 11:05pm

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You are right, I misinterpreted your post. I apologize.

I'm fairly certain that "be in" is not a phrasal verb. When you say that someone "is in a show," "in" is functioning as a preposition, not as part of a phrasal verb. To put it another way, "in" combined with "be" does not create a new verb with a new meaning in any sense; "in" is always able to function as a preposition in that context, or as something else altogether (e.g., an adverb, as in "the doctor is in." Are there any other roles that "in" can play in combination with "be"). In any case, I can't seem to find any references that suggest that there exist any phrasal verbs with the word "be."

And yes, you would only say "which season is he not in?" if you knew or believed that "he" was only absent for one season. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks about grammar in the shower :).

Jun-Dai June 25, 2004, 12:07am

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The verb has to agree with the subject.

For the verb 'to be', then, 'he' must be paired with 'is.'

Colin July 25, 2004, 10:07am

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Oh, do you really think so?

speedwell2 July 26, 2004, 4:29am

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"In which seasons isn't he?" is the most appropriate.

Nigel February 26, 2005, 2:32pm

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In which seasons does he not appear?

psmith June 23, 2005, 1:18pm

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Yes     No