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Interrogative Pronouns

We use interrogative pronouns to ask questions. The interrogative pronoun represents the thing that we don't know (what we are asking the question about).

There are four main interrogative pronouns: who, whom, what, which

Notice that the possessive pronoun whose can also be an interrogative pronoun (an interrogative possessive pronoun).

  subject object
person who whom
thing what
person/ thing which
person whose
Notice that whom is the correct form when the pronoun is the object of the verb, as in "Whom did you see?" ("I saw John.") However, in normal, spoken English we rarely use whom. Most native speakers would say (or even write): "Who did you see?"

Look at these example questions. In the sample answers, the noun phrase that the interrogative pronoun represents is shown in bold.

question answer  
Who told you? John told me. subject
Whom did you tell? I told Mary. object
What's happened? An accident's happened. subject
What do you want? I want coffee. object
Which came first? The Porsche 911 came first. subject
Which will the doctor see first? The doctor will see the patient in blue first. object
There's one car missing. Whose hasn't arrived? John's (car) hasn't arrived. subject
We've found everyone's keys. Whose did you find? I found John's (keys). object

Note that we sometimes use the suffix "-ever" to make compounds from some of these pronouns (mainly whoever, whatever, whichever). When we add "-ever", we use it for emphasis, often to show confusion or surprise. Look at these examples:

  • Whoever would want to do such a nasty thing?
  • Whatever did he say to make her cry like that?
  • They're all fantastic! Whichever will you choose?

Mini Quiz

Test your understanding with this quick quiz.

1. Complete with the correct interrogative pronoun: "_______ is yours? The blue one or the red one?"

What
Whose
Which
a) What b) Whose c) Which

2. Which cannot be used as an interrogative pronoun to fill the gap? "I don't understand. ______ do you mean?"

What
Whatnot
Whatever
a) What b) Whatnot c) Whatever

3. Which interrogative pronoun would most people use even though in formal grammar it's incorrect? " ______ did you see at the party?"

Who
Whom
Who or Whom
a) Who b) Whom c) Who or Whom

Your score is:

Correct answers: