Pronouns in questions

Level: beginner

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?

Pronouns in questions 1

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We often have a preposition at the end of a question:

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

Pronouns in questions 2

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Pronouns in questions 3

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Submitted by Kunthea on Thu, 29/10/2020 - 07:29

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Hello The LearnEnglish Team, Are they the same or different? 1. What book do you want? 2. Which book do you want? 3. What university did you go to? 4. Which university did you go to? Thank you.

Hello Kunthea,

There is a difference between the use of what and which in these kinds of questions.

We use what when the question is open and the person answering can choose any answer they wish. We use which when there is a limited choice and the person answering can only choose between them. Which carries the meaning 'Which of these...?'

For example, in your first question (with what) the other person can choose any book at all - there is no limit. In your second question (with which) the other person has a limited selection. You might use the second question if you are talking about a set of books on the shelf or on the table, or if you are talking about the books in a particular shop.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kunthea on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 08:53

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Hello, Could you tell me why the words 'want with s' and 'see no -s' as one example I did showed in the exercise 1 above? It says 'Who wants to go and see a film?' Thanks.

Hello Kunthea,

We use 'wants' (rather than 'want') because 'who' is treated as a third-person singular pronoun.

We use 'see' (rather than 'sees') because after the verb 'want' we use an infinitive. Effectively, the sentence is asking Who wants to go and to see...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter. the verb 'see' is an infinitive after the verb 'wants'.

Submitted by Vvv on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 11:37

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Hi, Is the question correct? "I have to do it in my notebook or on my computer?"

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 11:53

In reply to by Vvv

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Hello Vvv,

Yes, that is a correctly formed declarative question.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Backlight on Wed, 16/10/2019 - 06:55

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Hello, Good Afternoon. May I ask in pronouns in question using preposition . Always like" pronoun at the behind of "are,were,had ,have and so on"? For example,Which university did you go to? That "you " always behind the did,are,is, and so on ?

Hello Backlight

Yes, a pronoun is needed after an auxiliary verb in questions like the one you mention. There might be some exception in some specific cases, but in general, you should use a pronoun there.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Sat, 13/04/2019 - 05:08

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Dear Sir This is from your website under 'pronouns': Which university did you go to? Is it wrong to say 'What university did you go to? If this is wrong please tell me why it is wrong? I would like to know the difference between 'which' and 'what' Are we to use 'which' when there are two or three things to be chosen and ' what when there are many things to be chosen. For e.g. Which language do you like to study German or French? / what language do you like to study German or French? Which question is correct? Please let me know? Thank you. Regards Lal
Hello Lal, Generally, we use 'what' when the choice is open and 'which' when the choice is restricted. For example, to ask about a person's preferred films I might say: 'What films do you like?' However, if we were standing in front of a collection of DVDs (a limited choice) then I could say: 'Which films do you like?' ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Cristian Negoita on Sun, 10/03/2019 - 11:11

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Hi, I received this text mesages from your site: "Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!". I just signed on my account. I did not intend to create "a loop" (despite the fact one of my hobbies is computer programming). I dont know what was wrong. Hope everything is alright. Thank you for your very important resource for learning English language! Regards, Cristian Negoita

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 10/03/2019 - 17:57

In reply to by Cristian Negoita

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Hi Cristian

Thanks for your message. Don't worry, you didn't create this loop! I'm sorry that you thought this. This is a problem that we plan to fix soon. I'm very sorry for the ocnfusion!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RASHEEDKANNUR on Fri, 17/08/2018 - 16:04

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Hi, I would like to ask about the last word of each sentence below ,Are these words verbs or adjectives?Especially in the first sentence.The word 'READY' can use as a verb,adjective,noun and adverb. I am ready. I am good. I am well. I am tired I am bored. Can we use verbs after am,are,was(Be form verbs) in simple present tense in active sentences? Example: I am work, I am play. I look forward to hearing from you soon Best Wishes Rsheed.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 18/08/2018 - 07:51

In reply to by RASHEEDKANNUR

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Hello Rasheed,

In all of your examples the words after 'am' are functioning as adjectives. Strictly, they are subject complements.

We do not follow forms of 'be' with present simple. You can say 'I play' or 'I am playing', for example, but not 'I am play'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marcos LCh on Tue, 17/07/2018 - 18:42

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Hello, i was wondering if it is added later on the questions words when and where, because i noticed that they aren't here.

Hi Marcos LCh,

We are in the process of revising our grammar sections. I believe that the newer pages will include explanations of 'where' and 'when'. But if you have any questions before then, please don't hesitate to ask us here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hawa100 on Sun, 18/03/2018 - 00:02

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Who does this book belong to? Is correct to say Whom does this book belong to?

Hello hawa100,

The most common way to phrase the question by far is Who does this book belong to?

You can say either Whom does this book belong to? or To whom does this book belong? but both of these are very formal and can even sound quite old-fashioned.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Fri, 23/02/2018 - 18:37

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I would also like to ask to my previous question. If I am thirsty during a lesson and I want to go and get a glass of water. Can I ask; Can I go and bring a glass of water?

Hi anasge,

Yes, you can say 'Can I go and drink some water, please?' or 'Can I go and get a glass of water?'. The first one implies you will drink outside the classroom, whereas the second implies that you will get the glass of water and bring it back to class with you.

It's grammatically correct to say 'Can I go and bring a glass of water?', but we normally use 'get' when speaking about obtaining something and bringing it somewhere. If you said this, a native speaker might wonder who you're bringing the water to, and where.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Fri, 23/02/2018 - 18:35

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Hello, If I am thirsty during a lesson. Can I ask ; Can I go and drink some water, please?

Submitted by alexandeR-Rednaxela on Thu, 15/02/2018 - 20:44

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P. S. I'll be glad if you could say me how to change my message when it's been sent. P. P. S... It's thanks that I want to say to you. {I am afraid I have asked you to say me thanks in the previous message, so I have corrected it in this one.

Hello Alexander,

I'm afraid it's not possible for you to change a comment after you submit it. This means you should revise what you write before sending it. But if you make a mistake, don't worry -- this is quite common and you can still learn from it.

Don't worry about the other point you make!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alexandeR-Rednaxela on Thu, 15/02/2018 - 20:37

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Hi there! I'm dying to become one who know whether the following thing are right or not ; " Is this list comprehensive or are there some names missing? " Is this right or I am supposed to use the next one so that be following the rules ; " Is this list comprehensive or there are some names missing? " It's a good day that I wish you to have, it's thanks that I want you to say.

Hello Alexander,

Generally we don't provide a checking service for our users. We try to focus on explaining systems and rules and not correcting errors. We simply have too many users to do this kind of thing regularly.

Is this list comprehensive or are there some names missing?

This sentence is fine.

 

Is this right or I am supposed to use the next one so as to follow the rules / in order to follow the rules

This sentence needs some changes:

Is this right or I am supposed to use the next one so that be following the rules

 

Is this list comprehensive or there are some names missing?

This sentence is the same as the first one.

 

It's a good day that I wish you to have, it's thanks that I want you to say.

These are grammatically correct but sound very unnatural. I can't think of a likely context in which anyone would want to say this. We would simply say the following:

Good day! / Good day to you! / I'd like to wish you a good day!

Thanks! / Thank you very much! / Let me say thanks, I'm really grateful.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alexandeR-Rednaxela on Tue, 13/02/2018 - 21:02

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Hi there! I've found a rather interesting sentence while looking up a dictionary. Here it is. " Why does he act as if he was stupid? " Maybe I didn't get it right, but should there be 'were' instead of 'was'? Thanks beforehand!

Hi Alexander,

Both 'was' and 'were' can be used in hypothetical if-constructions such as this:

If I was you, I'd...

If I were you, I'd...

This is a change in how the language functions. In the past (perhaps 50 or 60 years ago) the correct form was 'were' and most people saw 'was' as incorrect. In modern English 'were' is still more common, especially in more formal contexts, but 'was' is also used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by uchiha itache on Sat, 10/02/2018 - 20:44

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Please, would anyone answer?

Hello uchiha itache,

Please be patient when waiting for a response. We reply as soon as we can to questions but we are a small team here operating a service entirely free of charge. If a comment is particularly long (as yours is) then it can take a while before we can answer it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by uchiha itache on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 18:17

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Hello the learn English team! I've read your article about reported speech but I still don't understand some points so I'm going to ask some many questions 1- he said " it is time we went " so in reported speech : he said (that) it was time they went or had gone ? 2- he said " a chicken sandwich is quite healthy " in reported: he said that chicken sandwich is or was ? 3- " Cairo is very big " becomes Cairo was or is ? Is 2 different from 3 ? When do I not change the tense ? If it's a science fact or a general fact ? And do I change the tenses with time conjunctions or not ? For example : She said " while I was staying in Cairo , I met the minister twice " in reported : she said that she met the minister twice while she was staying in Cairo or had met and had been staying ? And when I use while to describe two actions that was happening at the same time ..I don't change the past cont. ? Last question is, do I change needn't to didn't need to/ didn't have to ? Or to needn't have or just don't change it ? I'm really confused cause I read it in a book and online and asked my teacher ... I got 3 different answers

Hello uchiha itache,

Have you seen our reported speech 1 and 2 pages? If you haven't had a look at them, I'd suggest you read through them.

In sentence 1, the correct form is 'it was time they went'. This is because the 'went' in the direct speech isn't really referring to the past -- it's just that we use the past simple in the construction 'it's time + subject + verb'.

In sentence 2, both forms can be used. When the indirect speech is talking about the same situation the direct mentioned and that situation has not changed, then either the present or past can be used. Sentence 3 is like sentence 2, assuming that Cairo was a very big city and that it still is now.

As for the sentence about meeting the minister, you could use either 'met' or 'had met' and 'was staying' would be much more likely than 'had been staying'. If you wanted to emphasise that these events took place before other events not mentioned in this sentence, then the past perfect forms would probably be a better choice, but otherwise I'd go with the simpler forms (past simple and continuous), though again it really depends on context.

As for your other questions, can you please give specific example sentences? It's much easier for us to speak about specific sentences than grammar forms in general.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by uchiha itache on Tue, 30/01/2018 - 12:34

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The boy is lost The boy is missing Does both have the same meaning?

Hello uchiha itache,

They have similar but different meanings. 'lost' means the boy doesn't know where he is. 'missing' means that someone (his parents, for example), can't find him.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AmitMittal on Tue, 30/01/2018 - 02:29

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Hello, Please help me to find out. which one is correct ? 1. Which book do you want? 2. What book do you want? and why? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 30/01/2018 - 08:12

In reply to by AmitMittal

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Hello AmitMittal,

We generally use 'what' when there is an open choice without restrictions. We use 'which' when we are making or offering a choice amongst a restricted number. For example:

  1. What is your favourite film?
  2. Which is your favourite film?

The first sentence is a general question; the answer can be any film without restriction.

We would use the second sentence if there was a limited number of films to choose from. For example, we might ask this is we were standing in front of a DVD library and we wanted to ask which of the films in the library we like best.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by libero on Mon, 18/12/2017 - 13:28

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Hi Is it a must to use singular noun after the question word ‘which’? For example, 1 which toy do you like? 2 which toys do you like?

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 18/12/2017 - 17:17

In reply to by libero

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Hello libero,

No, you can use plural nouns as well. Both of your sentences are correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Wang Zijian on Thu, 23/11/2017 - 11:23

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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

Submitted by Hzazai on Sun, 12/11/2017 - 06:38

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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

Submitted by karogrig on Wed, 13/09/2017 - 10:48

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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

 

Submitted by Pavan Kaur on Fri, 08/09/2017 - 15:16

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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"

Hello Pavan Kaur,

We have a page on this topic which will help you with this. You can find it here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SamJ on Wed, 30/08/2017 - 17:23

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How long BEFORE did this occur ? Can before be used to express past in this instance How long SINCE the last bust departed? Is the expression correct How long UNTIL the next bus arrives ? Can until be used to express future in this instance Can you confirm this TO me? Can TO be used for confirming conversation between 2 people Please provide simple explanation on whether or not above statements correct

Hello SamJ,

I'm afraid we don't generally provide explanations of questions or sentences that don't come from our website. We also ask our users to explain to us in detail what they do and do not understand, as well as to ask specific questions, as this helps us to answer questions more effectively and also saves us time.

I'll answer your last question now, but to get answers to the others, please write them in separate comments and ask more specific questions. Normally, no phrase (such as 'to me') is used with the verb 'confirm', i.e. the most natural way to say this is simply 'Can you confirm this?' The idea of 'to me' is already understood.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rahim Dhaka on Thu, 24/08/2017 - 17:04

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Which came first? or Which did come first?