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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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Comments

Hello teachers! Should I use "how" or "what" in this sentence: "She never tells us _______ she feels." I feel it should be "how" more than "what" but the more I think about it, the less sure I am. Is it idiomatic? Or does it depend on the verb?
1. She never tells us how she feels.
2. She never tells us what she thinks.

Hello Kurin,

Both 'how' and 'what' are possible here. It does depend somewhat on the verb. When we use 'feel' we can can say 'how' or 'what', but when we use 'think' we can only use 'what'.

This is not a question of idiomatic meaning but rather collocation - which words go with other words in common use. Just as we usually say 'heavy rain' rather than 'strong rain' but 'strong wind' rather than 'heavy wind', so we use 'how' and 'what' as described above.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Collocation - that's the word! Okay, thank you!

I´m very happy with this kind of study! Congratulations to all team of the Learnenglish British Council!

Thank you so much sir, you solved my confusion, and thank's for co-operation.

sir,
Whats the difference between word especially and specially? can you tell me the appropriate use of it.

Hello Imran,

I'd recommend you two resources: one is the dictionary (see the search box under Cambridge Dictionaries Online on the lower right side of this page), where you can see definitions and examples of both words. Another good resource is this archived page on the BBC's Learning English site.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

when we use 'what' as a determiner: ''What university did you go to?'' isn't it a specific question like 'Which countries in South America have you visited?'
because you are asking a specific university that he/she already went like specific countries that he/she already visited in South America.
I think ''what'' is a determiner in a specific question; not in a general question.
Could you please explain if I am wrong?
Thanks in advance.

Hello nness,

'What' has a more general meaning - allowing a wider range of answers to be chosen - whereas 'which' suggests a more limited set.

If we are asking about a limited range then we are more likely to use 'which'. For example, if we are choosing from a cinema's listing then we would be more likely to say 'Which film do you want to see?' than 'What film...?' However, it is not a fixed grammatical rule but rather a tendency, so it is rare that either is wrong, rather that one is better or more common in certain situations.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I was corrected when I used a sentece "the NGOs those claim to preserve.....", wsa corrected to "the NGOs which claim to preserve....". I refered to a grammar book but I am confused what to use and why.
I will appreciate if you can assist.

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