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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No, we don't. In this case, the information we want to know (the name of the person living here) acts as a subject. Let's take a look at this sentence: "JOHN lives here". If you want to know the name of the person (John in my sentence) who lives here, you put "who" in the position of "JOHN" and keep the rest of the sentence. And that answers why there is no auxiliary verb in the question "who lives here?". Hope this would help you.

Submitted by neh7272 on Thu, 28/01/2016 - 18:36

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sir. what is the difference between following sentences- what you want ? what do you want ?

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 29/01/2016 - 06:41

In reply to by neh7272

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Hello neh,

The first one is not correct in standard English; the second one is. You can see the first question in comic books and even in novels in direct, informal speech, but it is not correct in standard English.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anujgarg3334 on Sat, 26/03/2016 - 18:00

In reply to by neh7272

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second one is right. but in spoken english first one also works.

Submitted by saloo-saloo on Fri, 22/01/2016 - 19:31

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hi everyone. I'm from georgia, I want to learn english.I'll do my best.

Submitted by jdm on Thu, 26/11/2015 - 15:47

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Is the sentence 'The head teacher admires who most as a director?' correct? One of my pupils wrote it down. It doesn't sound entirely wrong to me, but I'm not sure. The answer to the question is 'The head teacher admires Gore Verbinski most as a director'.

Hello jdm,

No, that's not really a proper question; since the verb is in the present simple, the auxiliary verb 'do' is needed. Normally one would say something like 'Who does the head teacher most admire as a director?'

By the way, if you didn't already know about it, as a teacher you might want to take a look at TeachingEnglish.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rajesh15 on Wed, 25/11/2015 - 05:02

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Dear Sir, When was this book published? When did this book publish? Which one is correct and why. Regards, Rajesh

Hello Rajesh,

The second sentence is grammatically correct but is strange because books are inanimate objects and therefore cannot publish themselves. For this kind of question, please be sure to look up the key word (here, for example, it's 'publish') in the dictionary. If you look it up in the dictionary search box on the right side of this page, the third and fourth example sentences in the first entry show this use.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Devixox on Wed, 04/11/2015 - 11:36

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Dear Sir, Which train did you come on? Why 'On' is used after come? Which train did you come? is this the correct sentence?

Hello Devixox,

'Which train did you come on?' is indeed correct, and the same question without 'on' is not correct. This is because if you omit 'on', it sounds as if 'train' is the object of 'come', which is impossible, as 'come' is an intransitive verb. 'on a train' is an adverbial that tells us how an action was done. Perhaps thinking that we 'get on' a train might help you here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team 

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lamastry on Mon, 19/10/2015 - 22:50

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Hello Is it possible to say Which country do you come from if it is what is the difference is I say What country do you come from

Submitted by Katarina128 on Thu, 24/09/2015 - 02:13

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Dear Sir/Madam, There's written an example "What country do you come from?". Is it also correct "Which country do you come from?" ("to choose" from all the countries)? Second one sounds more familiar to me, but I'm not sure if it is correct. Thank you in advance! Best regards, Katarina

Hello Katarina128,

Both are used and both are correct. The distinction between 'what' and 'which' is quite a hazy one, and many native speakers use them interchangeably in many contexts.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lexeus on Mon, 14/09/2015 - 04:56

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Hi Team If you are asking about somebody's occupation (a driver, a manager, etc.) is it better to use "who" or "what"? For example, "who is he?" or "what is he?" I have seen usage of both in course books. Thanks.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 14/09/2015 - 07:14

In reply to by lexeus

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Hi lexeus,

We use 'who' in this kind of question. It would be more common to ask 'What does he do?', however.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hind tamim on Wed, 12/08/2015 - 09:15

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what are you afraid of?

Submitted by Aryam27 on Tue, 14/07/2015 - 15:47

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I don't understand. how is the organization of sentences to make questions ? I'm confuse

Submitted by solitude on Thu, 09/07/2015 - 01:16

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Hello, wish you have a good time. Looking deeply into question words, we'll notice that which and whose are determiners rather than pronouns, is that right? Is the same rule about the relation between word order and the information asked, i.e. subject, object, etc applied to these two words? Thank you in advance.

Hello solitude,

Yes, 'whose' and 'which' can be considered determiners in that they identify a noun and pronouns when they stand for possessive noun phrases. In questions, these words are used before the noun they modify and then there is typically subject-verb inversion, e.g. 'Whose car have you borrowed?' (if they go with the object of the verb).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sourav Saha on Tue, 07/07/2015 - 11:26

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Sir, Here it says to use who to asks questions about people. Where do we use 'whom'?

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 07/07/2015 - 11:41

In reply to by Sourav Saha

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Hello Sourav,

In general, 'whom' is only used in some quite formal situations – in the vast majority of situations nowadays, 'who' is used. When it is used, 'whom' always refers to an object of some sort, either the object of a verb (e.g. 'Whom did you contemplate?') or of a preposition ('To whom have you conveyed the message?').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dangelitus on Thu, 25/06/2015 - 21:03

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Hello Learning English Team. In the sentences used in the exercises, it appears this one: "What are you afraid of?" My question is: I can also say "What are you afraid?" or it is necessary to use the prepositions?

Hello Dangelitus,

Yes, the preposition is necessary in these questions. It's quite common for questions in English to end with prepostions:

Where are you from?

Where did he go to?

Which hotel did you stay in?

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Thanks for the answer, then I will be more careful with the prepositions.

Submitted by Ema sam sam on Tue, 19/05/2015 - 19:43

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Dear English team, I would like to ask you about this sentence which answer below question is the right one and why? Jack.......responsible For setting fire to the building. ( To thought to be - is thought to be - thinks to be )

Hello Ema sam sam,

We don't like to answer questions which are part of classwork, homework or tests - these are for you to do! However, if you tell us which answer you think is correct then we will tell you if you are right or not.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear it is not a classwork, actually I was helping my cousing to study for her exam but soon I read this question I confused and didn't know how to explain this grammer for her so I sked here for help.

Submitted by neh7272 on Wed, 06/05/2015 - 13:38

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Sir Is it correct to say - Chairs which don't have cushions are uncomfortable to sit on. Or one shall use that in place of which .

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 17/08/2015 - 19:04

In reply to by neh7272

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Hello neh7272,

Both 'which' and 'that' are correct here. You can find an explanation of this on our relative pronouns page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dorisforbc on Thu, 23/04/2015 - 05:19

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Hello! I have a question about Subject-verb concord. 1.The board of directors IS responsible for the management of the firm. 2.The board of directors ARE shaking THEIR heads at the Chairman's speech. What confuses me is that, in the first sentence, we should use "is",while "are"in the second. In both two sentence, does the board of directors refer to people or just a group? Thank you !

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 23/04/2015 - 06:32

In reply to by Dorisforbc

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Hello Doris,

Both can be correct and the reason is that they can come from different varieties (kinds) of English. In the different varieties of American English, the singular verb (as in sentence 1) is used because the board of directors is one entity. In most varieties of British English, the plural verb is used (as in sentence 2) since 'board of directors' refers to a group of many people. You can see with many other similar words, e.g. 'team', 'management', etc.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by javedone on Tue, 07/04/2015 - 21:16

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But most journalists around the world weren't going to be delving into the statistical tables - they take their lead from the researcher's conclusions. Is first sentence a unreal present of It is past continuous and what does it mean?

Hello javedone,

We'd need this sentence's context (i.e. the sentences, paragraphs or even entire text before and after it) to be able to accurately interpret it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NaoualKabrane on Mon, 06/04/2015 - 15:44

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Hello, Please, why do we say : "WHICH university did you go to?" & "WHAT country do you come from?" i think we should use WHAT for both, if we follow the rule saying that "We use what to ask questions about things" We would use WHICH if we were asking to choose. Cf. next rule "We use which to ask someone to choose something" Thank you

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 06/04/2015 - 21:46

In reply to by NaoualKabrane

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Hello NaoualKabrane,

WIthout a context it's hard to give a concrete answer. However, questions like this with 'which' usually ask the person to choose between a limited number of options, while questions with 'what' are more open and ask the other person to choose any answer. It does depend on the context, however.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by neh7272 on Sat, 28/03/2015 - 13:03

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What is the difference between - ' what you want ' and ' what do you want'.

Hello neh7272,

If these are two isolated questions, i.e. 'What you want?' and 'What do you want?', then the difference is that only the second one is correct in standard, proper English. This is because questions in the present simple tense are formed using the auxiliary verb 'do'.

'What you want?' is, however, used sometimes in very informal situations, though I wouldn't recommend that you use it as others might think that you don't know the correct form rather than appreciate your advanced knowledge.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by soumiiiiii on Wed, 25/03/2015 - 05:56

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Hello , in the example: What country do you come from? Can we say Which country do you come from, instead of what? because in this example we let the other person choose a country ? Thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 25/03/2015 - 07:26

In reply to by soumiiiiii

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Hello soumiiiiii,

Yes, both sentences are grammatically possible. When we use 'what' the question is more open - the other person can choose any country. When we use 'which' we are usually asking them to choose from a limited group. For example:

What is your favourite food? [it can be anything]

I've got apples, bananas and cherries - which is your favourite? [choose from these options]

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amases2014 on Mon, 16/02/2015 - 09:54

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Hi can i say "what newspaper you read?" instead of "what newspaper do you read?"? thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 17/02/2015 - 07:40

In reply to by amases2014

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Hello amases2014,

No, I'm afraid that's not correct. In the present simple, the verb 'do/does' is needed to form questions properly - this is explained under section 3 of our verbs - questions and negatives page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Denis .o. remmy on Sat, 07/02/2015 - 08:55

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i am confused with this question... i will be happy to your help...!! When you arrive at the station......... taken a taxi what answer can i fill in the blank above among the following alternatives 1) will have 2) should have 3) would 4) have

Hello Denis,

Please note that we do not do users' homework for them! Perhaps this is not homework, but please keep that in mind. In any case, regarding the question you ask about, I'm afraid that none of those answers are correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team