Interrogative Pronouns in English Grammar
There are five interrogative pronouns in English. Each one is used to ask a specific question about people or objects.
To interrogate, is to ask questions of somebody. In English, interrogative pronouns are words that help you make questions. You may know them as wh- words, but remember that not all wh- words are interrogative pronouns. When you ask questions using these pronouns, the answer to these questions either refers to a person or a thing. Let us take a look at these pronouns:
What are English Interrogative Pronouns?
|Interrogative Pronoun||Asking about|
Interrogative Pronouns: Functions
Interrogative Pronouns as the Subject
When interrogative pronouns are used as subject they don’t change the structure of the sentence at all. In this case there is no need to change the position of subject and verb or add an auxiliary verb. Take a look at this example:
You can see that all we had to do was to replace the subject ‘he’ with interrogative pronoun.
Here is the structure; you just omit the subject and put the interrogative pronoun in the place of the subject.
Interrogative Pronouns as the Object
If you want to ask questions about the object of a sentence, you have to make some changes. First you have to remove the object; then change the sentence into a yes/no question and finally add interrogative pronoun at the beginning of your sentence.
Here, a new cup of coffee (object) is deleted. Do you need? is the yes/no question ,and what is used at the beginning of the sentence as an interrogative pronoun.
Whose as the Possessive Pronoun or Determiner
Remember, 'Whose' replaces both possessive pronoun or determiner. It is important to know that if you want to use the noun like (car) you should put it immediately after 'whose'.
Who or Whom?
‘Who’ and ‘whom’ belong to the same family since they both refer to a person, but there is an important difference between them. Generally, when you want to ask about the subject, you use ‘who’. If you want to ask about the object you use ‘whom’. Look at these examples:
In this question, ‘who’ asks about the subject of the verb ‘told’; ‘tell’ is a transitive verb and it needs both a subject and an object. The object is ‘you’, so you need the person that did the action of ‘telling’, Rick.
Here, we are asking about a girl who has been shot , the shooters (they) is the subject , and (a girl) is the object. so we use 'whom' to question the object.
In modern English ‘whom’ is considered formal and old-fashioned. So you can just use ‘who’ both as subject and object.
When to Use What and Which
‘What’ and ‘which’ are both used to ask about things, but there is a small difference between them. You can use ‘what’ to ask for information when there is an unlimited range of answers:
By the sight of the term 'what' you can get that one is asking for information out of unlimited range of answers.
You can use ‘which’ to ask for information when there is a limited range of answers:
Here in this question, you have only two choices to answer 'your mother' or 'your father'.
Probably there is only one blonde girl over there, since the person is using 'which' to ask the question.
Interrogative Pronouns + Ever
There are five other interrogative pronouns that are less common than the ones we mentioned. Basically, you can make them by adding the suffix ‘ever’ or ‘soever’ to the original interrogative pronouns. You can use these suffixes to add emphasis or surprise to the question. Remember that ‘soever’ is rarely used these days. The rules of the original interrogative pronouns apply to this form of these pronouns as well.
Let us look at some examples:
Here 'ever' is used to show that the person is surprised.
As you have seen in the previous example 'ever' is added to the interrogative words to emphasize more.
Using interrogative pronouns with –ever is not very common and is more seen in British English. However, using relative pronouns with the same suffix is very common and you see pronouns like ‘whoever’ or ‘whatever’ mostly as relative pronouns.
Generally, if you use ‘what’, ‘which’, and ‘whose’ alone, they would be interrogative pronouns. If you use a noun after them, they become interrogative determiners. Here are some examples for more clarity:
What color is your favorite ?
Here, ‘Color’ is a noun added to ‘what’, so ‘what’ is an interrogative determiner here.
Whose shoes are these ?
As you see, 'Shoes' is a noun added to ‘whose’ ,so 'whose' is an interrogative determiner here.
‘Whose’ is an interrogative determiner here. However, there is a very delicate difference between ‘which’ as an interrogative pronoun and ‘which’ as an interrogative determiner. If you change the order of the words in the example above, you can make a sentence with ‘which’ as an interrogative pronoun:
Whose are these shoes ?
In this example, 'whose' is a interrogative pronoun, since there is no noun after it. As you know 'these' is the demonstrative determiner here.
Interrogative Pronouns vs. Relative Pronouns
You remember that interrogative pronouns are only used in questions; you can also use these pronouns in sentences other than questions, but they would no longer be interrogative pronouns and they would become ‘relative pronouns.’ ‘Who’, ‘whom’, ‘which’, and ‘whose’ are all relative pronouns in this form, but ‘what’ will change into ‘that’.
Relative pronouns function as the connector of a noun and a clause. Look at the following examples:
It is obvious that ‘who’ connects ‘the salesman’ to the clause, ‘makes the most money this month.’
Since ‘what’ is not a relative pronoun, it is replaced by ‘that’ to connect a noun (movies) to a clause (have a lot of action scenes and loud noises).