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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


Interrogative determiners 2




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,


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.

Hello again Peter,

I read the link you sent. I am baffled after reading these below:

"We use who and whom for people, and which for things."

Now the example below given is
The newspaper reported that the tiger which killed its keeper has been put down.

I suppose that TIGER is the subject, because if we remove tiger from the sentence, it is meaningless. Please assist.

Thank you in advance.

Hello zeechan-hussain,

The relative clause in that sentence is 'which killed its keeper' and the subject is the relative pronoun 'which'. The relative clause describes 'tiger', which is the subject of the passive verb form 'has been put down'.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you. It is a difficult example because the relative clause is in the middle of the sentence, there is a confusing 'that' which is not a relative pronoun but rather part of a reporting verb phrase and the verb in the sentence is a passive form.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter. I will try to understand it better.

Thank you indeed Peter. I have now an understanding to make a better use.

Hello zeeshan-hussain,

It's hard for me to comment without seeing the whole sentence, as both 'those' and 'which' are possible, depending on how the sentence ends. If it was a relative clause then 'which' is necessary and 'those' is not possible as 'those' is not a relative pronoun.

You can learn more about relative clauses here.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Which is corect?
Which course are offering? or What course are you offering?

Thanks for you help.


You can only use "which" when you have a list choice known to your listener, else you make use of "what" since it will be a general question out of all causes which may not even be known to your listener.