interrogative determiners: which and what

 

We use "which" as a determiner to ask a question about a specific group of people or things:

Which restaurant did you go to?
Which countries in South America have you visited?

When we are asking a general question we use "what" as a determiner:

What films do you like?
What university did you go to?

Comments

Hi
I was wondering what do you call "general question"? Please I can't see the differences.

Hi tenchi91,

A general question is one which is not about a limited set.  For example, if I ask 'What is your favourite film?' then I am asking a general question and you can choose any film at all.  If I ask 'Which is your favourite film?' then I am asking about a certain group of films - for example the films which are on at the cinema at the moment, or the films I can see in a shop.  The context should make it clear which group you are referring to.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Bo Bo Naing Win,

You can find a page with information on the past perfect and an exercise to practise it here.

I also like to ask you to please post your comments on related pages.  This page is about interrogative determiners, not verb forms, so your question does not match the topic.  It's useful for everyone to be able to see questions and answers  which are relevant to whatever they are learning, so please try to find a relevant page to post each question on.

Thank you and best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
Please help at what situation can which and what used in middle of sentence?

Hi monaluki,

I suppose that you are asking about relative pronouns. Please take a look at our relative pronouns page, and then if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask us there.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
I would like to know which determiner I should use when in the below situation.
1. in a bookshop or in a cinema
    Which is your favourite book? or What is your favourite book?
   To my knowledge, when we're in bookshop, there're numerous books thus the options are many and we can use determiner 'what'. Also I'd like to know whether there's a specific number associated as a condition to use 'Which'. For an example, if I can see lesser than 4 items, I can use 'which' or anything as such. Can you explain this?
Theresa

Hello Theresa,

Both of these questions are grammatically possible, but there is a difference in meaning.  

You are correct that 'which' suggests a more limited set of options, but it is not dependent on the number, but rather whether or not the choice is in some way limited.  For example, if you are standing in a bookshop and ask 'Which is your favourite book?' then the other person is likely to assume that you mean 'from the books here in the shop', while if you ask 'What is your favourite book?' then they are likely to assume that you are asking in more general terms - about any book.

The distinction is not fixed, however, and is dependent on context and (understood/stated/apparent) intention.  For example, if the questioner indicated with their hand a shelf full of books and asked 'What's your favourite book?' then it would be clear that they mean 'from this shelf'.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,
I'm able to distinguish better the usage of the determiners now. Thanks for your explanation.
Theresa

I wonder we use (which)two people and things its for alot of
And (what) we use for 1 person and 1 thing? Thank

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