# Interrogative determiners: 'which' and 'what'

Level: intermediate

The interrogative determiners are which and what.

which is a specific determiner

Here are three books. Which book do you think is the most interesting?
They have four boys. Which boy is the oldest?
I can’t remember which house Janet lives in.
Which restaurant did you go to?

what is a general determiner

What food do you like?
I don’t know what job she does.

Interrogative determiners 1

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Interrogative determiners 2

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Average

Submitted by howtosay_ on Wed, 07/12/2022 - 19:18

Hello and thank you very much for helping us to learn!

Could you please clarify the following

1. Do you say "What is your favourite restaurant? (because there can be many possible answers) or which is your favourite restaurant? (because it is limitied with a choice of city or country restaurants?

2. Is it right to ask "What is your favourite book" and "Which is your favourite Dickens' book?" Can these determiners be used interchangeably in these questions?

3. Can one ask "Which size are you looking for" talking about a limited number of sizes that are available in the store?

Hello howtosay_,

1. Both 'what' and 'which' are possible here. It depends on what you are thinking of when you ask the question. If you've been talking about several different restaurants and want to know the one of those that your friend likes best, you'd say 'which' because the set of restaurants you're talking about it is clear. In most other cases, you'd use 'what'. You could even already have been talking about restaurants in various places, but if there's not a clear group that you're referring to, then 'what' would be the best option.

2. Yes, both of these are correct. The 'what' question is much more open and 'which' works well when talking about a specific group of books, such as those Dickens wrote. Even so, if you haven't been talking about Dickens books in some detail already, people would often say 'What is your favourite Dickens book?'. Their choice of 'what' here reflects the fact that a specific group hasn't been discussed.

3. It would make sense to 'which' here, and it's not wrong to use it, but most often people say 'what'. In general, we use 'what' far more often than 'which'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Wed, 11/08/2021 - 10:30

Hi there, In exercise 1, there is a sentence saying.... Well, I love music from the sixties. I'm a big fan of the Beatles. A: Me too. ___ your favourite album? So my question is, Although it is specific when it comes to dates/time, can we also say it is a general and we can use both which/what as there can be unlimited Beatles Albums released in sixties? Hope you understood my question.

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 11/08/2021 - 16:36

Hello Maahir,

Yes, I understand. There are many cases in an exercise where it's possible to use both 'which' and 'what' because the full context or speaker's intentions aren't completely clear, and this is a good example. When A asks the question here, they seem to be thinking of the Beatles albums that were released in the sixties. Since this is quite a specific set of albums which A seems to be familiar with, they say 'which'.

But it could also be that A is not so familiar with these albums and isn't thinking of them as a specific set of albums. And in that case, 'what' would also work here.

Since this question follows on from the previous one, we designated 'which' as the correct answer, but in a more general or other context, 'what' is also possible.

I hope that makes sense.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Very clear. Many thanks for your tremendous help.

Submitted by Timmy Ferrer on Tue, 11/05/2021 - 02:19

Hello! I'd like to ask about this example: Let's say I met this new teacher (a foreigner) who has just moved to our school and i want to know what/which country and school they came from. Which determiner is more appropriate? I often get confused on this one because I have this idea that we're familiar with the countries and schools where many foreign teachers in our area usually come from. Thanks in advance for the advice.

Hello Timmy Ferrer,

I think in this case you could use either and it really wouldn't make very much difference.  You'd certainly use which if the choice of country had been limited in some way (such as by someone identifying which continent the person is from), but even if there is no indication you could use which.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by IreneK on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 15:10

Hi, I would be most grateful if someone could explain why there is no article in phrases such as e.g. the history of Italian Renaissance Sculpture (no article before Italian) or Masterpieces of Medieval Enamel. I intuitively understand that a) we are dealing with abstract entities - therefore no definite article, and b) we are not dealing with the whole bulk of objects existing in this category. I would be grateful, though, for the explanation from the native speaker. Many, many thanks

Hi IreneK,

As you say, these are abstract concepts rather than particular items, and so no article is used.

It's sometimes helpful to consider how the sentence would change if articles were used.

the history of an Italian Renaissance Sculpture - this would describe the history of one such sculpture which has not yet been identified to the listener/reader

the history of the Italian Renaissance Sculpture - this would describe the history of a particular sculpture which has been identified to the listener/reader

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Mon, 15/06/2020 - 01:12

It's really interesting.

Submitted by Diego Feital on Mon, 30/03/2020 - 19:30

Hello. I think I couldn't understand properly the differences in the use of which and what. Thanks for helping me. Best regards.

Hello Diego Feital

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Akong on Sat, 15/09/2018 - 15:07

Sir Is the use of one word as adjective and verb in the same sentence correct ? Example: Do you want to naked me? 2....I met Him

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 15/09/2018 - 15:16

Hi Akong,

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any adjectives that can be used as a verb without some kind of change in form. Usually some kind of suffix or prefix is added, e.g. the adjective 'white' + '-en' = 'to whiten'.

'naked' can't be used as a verb in standard English so that sentence is not grammatical. In 2, 'met' is only a verb (the verb 'meet' in the past simple) and is not an adjective. I don't see how you could use it as an adjective, but if you have something specific in mind, please let us know.

By the way, could you please ask your questions on a relevant page? For example, since this one is about verbs and adjectives, it would make more sense somewhere in one of those sections instead of here. Thanks in advance for your cooperation with this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Akong on Mon, 10/09/2018 - 15:08

Sir. Somebody wrote and said There are about 50 different determiners in the English language they include: Articles - a, an, the. Demonstratives - this, that, these, those, which etc. Possessives - my, your, our, their, his, hers, whose, my friend's, our friends', etc. Quantifiers -few, a few, many, much, each, every, some, any etc. More items...which of them fits or means "Integrative" Is it DEMONSTRATIVE? following his arrangement since he wrote (which ) as one of his examples ? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 11/09/2018 - 06:29

Hello Akong,

We're happy to comment on our own material and explanations but we can't explain to you what someone else was thinking when they wrote something. There are interrogative determiners (I think this is what you mean, rather than 'integrative') which are used before nouns to ask questions (e.g. Which book do you want?).

You can find a useful categorisation of determiners on the relevant wikipedia page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determiner

I think if you want an explanation of this person's categorisation then you should contact them. It would not be appropriate for us to speak for that person.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Akong on Mon, 10/09/2018 - 14:22

Thanks sir. You have solved my problem

Submitted by jenneec on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 08:25

Hi, Is whose an interrogative determiner?

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 17/01/2018 - 09:55

Hello jenneec,

'Whose' can be a pronoun (when it is not followed by a noun) or a possessive determiner (when it is followed by a noun). It can be used to form a question but it can also be used in other ways.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, So it is a possessive interrogative determiner? Can it come under interrogative determiners ? Thankyou.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 18/01/2018 - 07:36