Interrogative pronouns: WHO? WHAT? WHOSE? WHICH?

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    Interrogative pronouns are short words that we use when we want to ask a question. Because they all start with -wh, students often get confused. In English we distinguish the following interrogative pronouns:

    Interrogative pronouns Example of use
    Who Who is that woman?
    What What is your phone number?
    Whose Whose textbook is it? / Whose is the textbook?
    Which Which colour is your favourite?

    Let’s focus on the rules that are associated with these pronouns. Beginners can skip this section.

    1 Who

    We use WHO when we ask about people.
    Who is your best friend?

    If this pronoun is in the so-called accusative case, WHO changes to WHOM. Mostly WHOM is used only in written formal English. In everyday English, WHOM is now being replaced by the classic WHO pronoun:
    Whom did you see? (We ask about the object.)
    → I saw him. (I saw who / what? → him → In this sentence “him” is in the place of the object.)

    Who let the dogs out? Who, who, who, who?!”

    (Baha Men – Who Let The Dogs Out)

    2 What

    We use WHAT when we ask about things. It remains the same in all genders and cases:
    What is your favourite movie?

    3 Whose

    We use WHOSE for people, things and animals. It connects with the genitive case – whose / from what. It refers to both plural and singular nouns and does not change with the case:
    Whose children are these?
    Whose phone is that?

    4 Which

    We also use WHICH for people, things and animals. It refers to both plural and singular nouns and remains the same in all genders and cases:
    Which woman has brown hair?
    Which tram goes to the train station?

    We often use the interrogative pronoun WHICH for making choices.
    Let’s look at some examples:
    Imagine that we ask a customer in a car-showroom which car he likes from the many on offer. We give him specific options to choose from. Therefore, he can say that he likes the Skoda Octavia if we have that car in our offer.
    Which car do you like?

    but if we ask what kind of car a particular person likes in general (from all the cars they produce). Therefore, he or she can answer that he/she likes the Skoda Octavia.

    What car do you like?

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    Vendula Nedělová
    She completed her master's degree at the Faculty of Education, Charles University, specializing in English language, music culture, pedagogy, and social pedagogy. She has many years of experience in language teaching in the Czech Republic, USA, Indonesia and Germany. She works as a methodologist and coordinator of language courses in OLINE learning, where she leads a team of lecturers and the creation of language courses for more than 137 000 students. Vendula follows the motto: “Learning should be fun, because if we enjoy what we do, then it makes sense”.