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interrogative pronoun

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interrogative pronoun

Interrogative pronouns in English

Definition:

A term in traditional grammar for a pronoun that introduces a question.

The five interrogative pronouns in English are who, whom, whose, which, and what.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • Who are you?


  • "Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?"
    (Clarence Darrow)


  • "When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him: 'Whose?'"
    (Don Marquis)


  • Which color do you prefer?


  • "I got a belt on that's holding up my pants, and the pants have belt loops that hold up the belt. What is going on here? Who is the real hero?"
    (Mitch Hedberg)


  • "Notice that an interrogative pronoun will never have an antecedent. Since it asks a question, there is no way to know which noun an interrogative pronoun refers to. The antecedent remains a mystery until the question is answered."
    (M. Strumpf and A. Douglas, The Grammar Bible. Owl Books, 2004)


  • What versus Which
    What is used when specific information is requested from a general or open-ended possible range. Which is used when specific information is requested from a restricted range of possibilities:
    A. I've got your address. What's your phone number?
    B. Oh it's 267358.
    (an open-ended range of possible information)
    [looking at a pile of coats]
    A. Which is your coat?
    B. That black one.
    However, where the number of options is shared knowledge among speakers and listeners, what + noun is often used in informal contexts. Here, what is an interrogative pronoun used as a determiner:
    [talking about a shop]
    What side of the street is it on, left or right?
    (or: Which side of the street is it on?)

    A: Did you see that documentary about the SARS virus last night?
    B; No, what channel was it on?
    (or: Which channel was it on?)
    (R. Carter and M. McCarthy, Cambridge Grammar of English: A Comprehensive Guide. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006)
Pronunciation: inte-ROG-eh-tiv PRO-nown
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