Interrogative Determiners for intermediate learners

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 a type of determiner used in English grammar to form questions questions about nouns. There are three main interrogative determiners in English: What, Which, Whose.

'What' as an Interrogative Determiner

When seeking information about a person or thing, we typically use the determiner 'what'. It's important to note that 'what' as a determiner cannot stand alone and must always be followed by a noun or a noun phrase. Study the following examples carefully:

What literary genre do you mostly enjoy?

As you can see, the determiner is followed by a noun phrase.

What kind of poem are you reading today?

'Which' as an Interrogative Determiner

When asking about which item or person to select from a series of events, people, or objects, we use the determiner 'which'. For example:

Which color suits you the most?

As you can see, there determiner is always followed by a noun.

Which toy does she want her mom to buy for her?

Tip!

It's important to understand that 'what' is a general determiner, while 'which' is a specific determiner. When we ask a question using 'which', the response is limited to a few items, whereas 'what' allows for a broader range of possible responses.

'Whose' as an Interrogative Determiner

To inquire about the ownership or possession of something, we use the interrogative possessive determiner 'whose'. Keep in mind that 'whose' is the only determiner that can both ask a question and indicate possession (as a possessive determiner) in a noun phrase. Study the following examples:

Whose umbrella are you taking with you?

Here, the determiner is followed by a noun.

Whose files are those?

Warning!

Please note that these determiners no longer function as determiners if they stand alone and are not followed by a noun or a noun phrase. Compare the following examples:

What movie are you watching?

Here, 'what' is a determiner because it is followed by a noun.

What is she doing?

Here, 'what' is not a determiner because it is used alone.

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