1. When I point to something or someone, I can say "Who is this/that? - What is this/that? - What are these/those?", so when I can use "Who was this/that? - What was this/that? - What were these/those? or what do they mean?" 

2. I saw a video on youtube, its name is "What was this?", what does it mean? 
Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q289WrcIA00 

3. I saw a video on youtube, its name is "What was that?", what does it mean? 
Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTfcEo0S3vM 

Thank you!

Original Post

Hello, Kimconu,

You can use the past tense of the verb be to refer to people who are no longer on the scene or to things that have been transformed and are now hardly recognizable, or are no longer in sight.

In video (2), they are trying to guess what that flat, burned piece was (that is, what it was originally, before being destroyed). 

In video (3), the question "what was that?" refers to a car that goes so fast that it disappears before the driver can see what make it was. It was surely a very special car. Not any car can go that fast.

Gustavo, Contributor posted:

Hello, Kimconu,

You can use the past tense of the verb be to refer to people who are no longer on the scene or to things that have been transformed and are now hardly recognizable, or are no longer in sight.

In video (2), they are trying to guess what that flat, burned piece was (that is, what it was originally, before being destroyed). 

In video (3), the question "what was that?" refers to a car that goes so fast that it disappears before the driver can see what make it was. It was surely a very special car. Not any car can go that fast.

So could I also use "Who was this? / Who was that?" - "What was this? / What was that?" to refer to someone or something in the past?

Ex:
1. I just saw a woman on TV winning the Olympic gold in swimming. Who was this/that?
2. Someone left the milk out of the refrigerator. Who was this/that?
3. There was a president in the US who freed the slaves. Who was this/that? 
4. If a person who just walked by in the street, or came into a room and then left/exited. Could I say after pointing to the door or in the direction of the person "Who was this? / Who was that?"?
5 If I and my friend are looking at a photo of a party she was at. Could I point at a face and ask ''Who was this? - Who was that?' (e.g. 'who was the person who was standing to your left when the photo was taken').?
6 My friend is talking on the phone, and then hangs up. I can then say "Who was this? / Who was that?".
7 If I hear a noise, or see something go past the window, I can say '"What was this? / What was that?"'.

So could I also use "Who was this? / Who was that?" - "What was this? / What was that?" to refer to someone or something in the past?

Yes, of course.

Please note that, except in the example of the person being shown a picture, in all the other cases "that" may be more suitable to refer to somebody or something that is distant (in terms of place or time).

In sentence number (2), where the speaker has not seen who left the milk outside, it might be more appropriate to ask: Who was itThe same question could be used in other situations where there is no pointing or any visual or audio -- but only conceptual -- reference, as is the case with (3).

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×