Interrogative Determiners

There are three interrogative determiners in English: what, which, and whose. In this lesson, we will go through each one of them.

"Interrogative Determiners" in English Grammar

What Are Interrogative Determiners?

Interrogative determiners are used in direct and indirect questions to ask about a specific noun or noun phrase. They help to identify or specify the noun that is being referred to in the question.

English Interrogative Determiners

The three interrogative determiners in English are:

  1. what/whatever
  2. which/whichever
  3. whose/whosever

Interrogative Determiner: What

'What' is used in questions to ask for particular information about somebody or something. Unlike the pronoun 'what', which stands alone, the determiner 'what' always comes before a noun or a noun phrase. Pay attention to the examples:

What color is your eyes?

What kind of music do you like?

What time is it?

Warning

Notice that in the following examples, 'what' is a pronoun, not a determiner.

What do you do for a living?

What is your name?

Interrogative Determiner: Which

'Which' is an interrogative determiner used in questions to ask for specific information about one or more people or things from a limited number of options. Pay attention to the examples:

Which way is the pharmacy?

Which movie do you want to watch?

Which restaurant did you go to?

using an interrogative determiner in a sentence

Warning

When 'which' appears alone in a sentence, without a noun or noun phrase following it, it acts as a pronoun, not a determiner.

Which do you prefer: chocolate or vanilla?

Which is better: Harry Potter books or movies?

'What' vs. 'Which'

'Which' is considered a specific determiner because it helps to identify a particular noun or noun phrase with a limited range of possible answers, while 'what' is used to ask for more general information about an unknown or unspecified noun or noun phrase and is thus called a general determiner.

Interrogative Determiner: Whose

'Whose' is an interrogative determiner used in questions to ask about the possession or ownership of something. It functions both as a possessive determiner and an interrogative determiner, making it the only interrogative possessive determiner in English. Take a look at the examples:

Whose jacket is this?

Whose house is up for sale?

Whose iPhone was stolen?

Warning

Now notice that in the following examples, 'whose' is a pronoun, not a determiner.

Whose are these shoes?

Whose is that limo outside?

Interrogative Determiners in Indirect Questions

All the examples we have seen so far were examples of direct questions. But, interrogative determiners can also appear in indirect questions. For example:

Can you tell me what flavor you want for your ice cream?

Do you know his sister is a teacher at which school?

I wonder whose house is up for sale.

Review

Interrogative words are words that are used to ask questions to get different information. There are three main interrogative words that we discussed in the article. Now, let us have a quick look over them.

Determiner Pronoun
What What school did you use to go? What are Those boxes for?
Which Which office in this building is looking for new staff? Which is worse? falling off the steps or fall in to the cesspool? because I experiences both today!
Whose Whose son is this young boy? whose are these beautiful puppies?

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