Interrogative Pronouns for intermediate learners

There are five interrogative pronouns in English. Each is used to ask a specific question. In this lesson, we will learn more about these pronouns.

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"Interrogative Pronouns" in English Grammar

What Are Interrogative Pronouns?

When we want to make questions in English, we use interrogative pronouns. Although they are the same as 'wh words', you should know that they differ in use and that not all 'wh-words' are interrogative pronouns. Look at the table below:

Interrogative Pronoun Person/Thing Asking about
What Thing Subject/Object
Which Person/Thing Subject/Object
Who Person Subject
Whose Person/Thing Possessive Nouns

How to Use Them

Interrogative pronouns can be used as either subjects or objects. Now, let us see how they work:

Interrogative Pronouns as the Subject

In this case, we simply replace the subject of the sentence with an interrogative pronoun accordingly. The verb remains the same and nothing else is added or removed. Pay attention to the following examples:

The green one is my favorite. → Which is your favorite?

The blasting news was spread everywhere. → What was spread everywhere?

As you can see, simply the subject is removed and an interrogative pronoun is used.

We're talking about relationship goals. → Who are talking about relationship goals?

Interrogative Pronouns as the Object

Using interrogative pronouns as objects is a bit different. First, you have to remove the object in the sentence and then turn the sentence into a yes/no question and then add the interrogative pronoun to the beginning of the sentence. Let us study the following examples carefully:

I'm talking about real money here. → What are you talking about?

As you can see, the place of the verb is changed accordingly.

She's pointing to the red-haired guy. → Which is she pointing to?

Who and Whose

'Who' is used to ask about people. We normally use 'who' to ask about the subject and the object. Look at the following examples:

A : Who said you could come in here without permission?

B : You said so yourself.

Tip!

It is useful to know that another interrogative pronoun is 'whom'. It is old-fashioned and formal and is not that common among English speakers. Its main purpose is to replace the object of the sentence. Look at the following example:

A : To whom was the New Testament given?

B : It was given to Mark.

'Whose' is the only possessive pronoun here and it replaces possessive nouns or possessive determiners. Its purpose is to indicate ownership. Study the following examples:

That bus is ours. → Whose is that?

She is talking to her cat. → Whose cat is she talking to?

Warning!

Be careful that there is a slight difference between 'What' and 'Which'. When we use 'What' as an interrogative pronoun, we can have an infinite number of answers. However, when using 'which', we have a limited range of answers. Look at the following examples below:

A : What do you like to study in America?

B : I like to study Norse mythology there.

A : Which is your favorite food on the menu?

B : Well, it's Pasta with Alfredo sauce.

Interrogative Determiners

If these interrogative pronouns are followed by a noun, they are no longer called pronouns. They will be called interrogative determiners. Pay attention to the following examples:

Whose book are you reading?

What literary genre are you interested in?

As you can see, the interrogative pronoun is followed by a noun which turns it to a determiner.

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