Which question word to use?

We use who to ask questions about people:

Who is that?
Who lives here?
Who did you see?

We use whose to ask about possession:

Whose coat is this? [or] Whose is this coat?
Whose book is that? [or] Whose is that book?
Whose bags are those? [or] Whose are those bags?

We use what to ask questions about things:

What is that?
What do you want?

We use which to ask someone to choose something:

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
I’ve got two books. Which do you want?

We can also use what and which with nouns:

What subjects did you study at school?
What newspaper do you read?
Which newspaper do you read – the Times or the Guardian?
Which book do you want?
Which one is yours?

Questions with prepositions:

Questions ending in prepositions are very common in English. After Who, Which or What we often have a preposition at the end of the sentence:

Who does this book belong to?
What are you looking for?
Which university did you go to?
What country do you come from?

 

Activities
 

Reorder the words to make questions

 

Section: 

Comments

I don't think the example - What country do you come from? - is right. We should say "Which country do you come from". Am I right?

Hello Wang Zijian,

It depends on the context. If a specific list of countries has been mentioned, then 'which' is better. But if there is no such context (i.e. there is no list of countries that has been mentioned or which is otherwise available given the context), then 'what' is best.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you! But I still think that when we ask the question, the list of countries naturally exists because the number of countries around the world is known and finite. Is this list too long for 'which' to be used?

Hello Wang Zijian,

The key is, as Kirk says, that no specific selection has been mentioned for the person to choose from. Many lists are finite - there is a finite number of films that have been made, for example, and a finite number of animals in the world - but unless a selection has been made, implicily or explicitly, then we use 'what' to signify a free choice.

Imagine you go into a cake shop with a friend and in the shop there are five different kinds of cake on display. You could simply turn to your friend and say "I'll pay. What do you want?" or you could look or point at the five options and say "I'll pay. Which do you want?" Effectively, when we say 'which' we are saying 'which of these' - the choices must be clear to both speakers.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your very detailed explanation!

Hello Sir,
i don't understand using of whose. please provide me some more examples for better understanding.

Hello Hzazai,

Used as a question word, 'whose' asks about ownership or possession. For example:

 

Whose pen is this? (= who does the pen belong to)

It's mine. (= the pen belongs to me)

 

Whose coat is the nicest? (= the coat belonging to whom)

I like Paul's coat the best. (= the coat belonging to Paul).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Mrs.
Can I say
What newspaper do you read? - The Times or Washington Post ?
Which newspaper do you read – the Times or the Guardian?

Hello karogrig,

Our what and which page explains this in some detail. Normally 'which' would be used here, since there is a specific limited number of newspapers in question.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello Team

I want to know about the usage of "what" and "which".
What news paper do you read?
which news parer do you read?
Which university did you go to?
What country do you come from?
When exactly does one use "what" and "which"

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