Which

'Which' is a WH word, mainly used in question form. In this lesson, we will learn everything about this word.

How to Use "Which" in the English Grammar

Which is one of the most commonly used words in English. In this lesson, we will learn its four functions:

Now, we will learn each of them.

1. 'Which' as an Interrogative Determiner

Use

Which as an interrogative determiner is used to ask about something in a set of things. For example:

The blue bag is mine. → Which bag is yours?

'Which' specifies 'the blue bag' in a set of other bags.

This one is the best. → Which one is the best?

I want the blue bag. → Which bag do you want?

Which + of

Which as an interrogative determiner can be used before 'of' and some determiners like 'your, the, ...'

Which of these books do you want?

'These' is a determiner.

Which of them suits you?

Position in a Sentence

Which as an interrogative determiner must be followed by a noun or a noun phrase. Which also comes at the beginning of an interrogative sentence. If a main verb is used, an inversion is needed. How to make the inversion?

  1. Which comes at the beginning of the sentence, followed by a noun or a noun phrase;
  2. That part of the sentence being asked is omitted;
  3. An auxiliary or a semi-auxiliary verb is needed if there is a main verb in the sentence.
  4. The verb and the subject are inverted.

For example:

I want the blue bag. → Which bag do you want?

Which shoes are yours?

'Which' is an interrogative determiner because it modifies 'shoes' and introduces a question.

Tip

1. The subject 'I' and 'we' are replaced with 'you' in an interrogative sentence.
2. Mine and ours are replaced with yours.

2. 'Which' as an Interrogative Pronoun

Use

Which as an interrogative pronoun is used to ask about the subject, the object, or the object of a preposition. For example:

  • Which asks about the subject; for example:

The blue bag is mine. → Which is yours?

'Which' asks about 'the blue bag.'

This one is the best. → Which is the best?

  • Which asks about the object; for example:

I want the blue bag. → Which do you want?

'Which do you want?' is not as frequent as 'which one do you want?'

  • Which can be the object of a preposition. Prepositions come before 'which.' For example:

I believe in this book. → In which do you believe?

'Which' asks about the object and comes after the preposition 'in.'

Tip

It is common to use prepositions at the end of the sentence in spoken English. Such as:

Which do you believe in?

Position in a Sentence

Which as an interrogative pronoun comes at the beginning of a sentence followed by a verb. If there is a main verb, inversion is needed. There are four steps for making the inversion:

  1. Which comes at the beginning of the sentence;
  2. That part of the sentence being asked is omitted that is usually the determiner phrase;
  3. An auxiliary verb or a semi-auxiliary verb is needed;
  4. The verb and the subject are inverted.

For example:

This one is the best. → Which is the best?

'This one' is a determiner phrase and it is omitted.

I want the blue bag. → Which do you want?

'Want' is a main verb, so we need the auxiliary verb 'do.' As a result, an inversion is required.

Which vs. What

'Which' is used to refer to a limited range of things but 'what' refers to a wider range of things. For example:

Which do you want? The blue bag or the red pencil?

What do you want?

3. 'Which' as a Relative Determiner

Use

Which as a relative determiner marks a nominal relative clause. The nominal relative clause plays the role of a subject or an object. Which specifies and precedes a noun. For example:

I don’t know which book you bought.

'Which book you bought' is the object of 'I don’t know.' Here, 'which' modifies 'book.'

Which one you want, is none of my business.

'Which one you want' is the subject of 'is none of my business.'

Position in a Sentence

Which as a relative determiner comes before a noun or a noun phrase. For example:

I don’t know which book you bought.

'Which' connects 'which book you bought' to 'I don’t know' and it is a determiner because it precedes 'book.'

Which car you've bought matters to me.

'Which' as a relative determiner comes before 'car.'

4. 'Which' as a Relative Pronoun

Use

Which as a relative pronoun is used to introduce an adjectival relative clause that describes the preceding noun or noun phrase. For example:

I know the shoes which were very expensive.

'Which were very expensive' is an adjective for 'the shoes.'

The chair which is broken is here.

Position in a Sentence

If which is a relative pronoun, it always heads an adjective clause. For example:

I know the shoes which were very expensive.

'Which' heads the adjective clause.

Prepositions and the Relative Pronoun 'Which'

Prepositions are used before the relative pronoun 'which', but in spoken English, the preposition comes at the end of the sentence.

I have a notebook in which I write my diaries.

I have a notebook which I write my diaries in.

It is mostly used in spoken English.

Which vs. That

That as a relative pronoun can replace which but a comma is never used before that. Which can take a comma if the adjective clause it introduces is non-essential. Which is more formal than that. For example:

The bag, which looks odd, is my favorite.

'Which looks odd' is a non-restrictive clause and can be left out.

This is the bag which I like the most.

'Which I like the most.' is a restrictive clause and cannot be omitted.

This is the bag that I like the most.

'That' replaces 'which' in a restrictive clause.

Tip

Which as a relative determiner and an interrogative determiner must be followed by a noun.

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