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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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.

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.

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.

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

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

It's really interesting.

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