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Interrogative Pronouns

An Interrogative pronoun is a pronoun used when you want to ask a question. The interrogative pronoun represents the thing that we don't know (what we are asking the question about). There are five main interrogative pronouns: who, whom, what, which and whose. Whose is a possessive pronoun but it can also be used as interrogative pronoun. So ‘whose’ can be used as an Interrogative Possessive Pronoun. Even if they can be used as different kinds of pronouns in different contexts, you can only call them interrogative pronouns if they are being used in a question format.

  • Whom do you suggest we nominate for class president? - Here, “whom” is the object of the verb “nominate.”
  • Which color did you choose for your bedroom wall? – Here, the inanimate object is “which” 
  • There's one car missing. Whose hasn't arrived? 
Example: (the same words are personal and relative pronouns)
  • The woman whom she chose will do a wonderful job. 
  • Roger will decide whom the employees will work with. 
  • You will need to decide which the best option is.

Interrogative pronouns are those pronouns which are used to ask questions.  The things that are unknown to us are asked with the help of Interrogative pronouns. There are five important Interrogative pronouns Who, Which, What, whom and whose these pronouns are specifically used to ask questions. We can also add suffix “–ever”, “–soever” to some pronouns to make compounds and ask questions such as whichever, whatever, whoever, whomever and whosoever. Sometimes interrogative pronouns do not have antecedents because you are not yet sure what they really are! To summarize, the interrogative pronouns are often called the 5 W’s. Interrogative pronouns are never plural and ask a question that usually requires more than an answer of “yes” or “no.” Few examples of interrogative pronouns are mentioned below:

                     Question                     Answer                               
  1. Who did you meet? 
  I met Lionel today. 
  2. Which one is your car? 
  The red one is my car. 
  3. What is your name?   My name is Annabelle. 
  4. Whom did you see today?    I saw a famous dancer today. 
  5. These dresses are all nice! Whichever
     will you choose?                                    
  Yes, they are really nice.
  I will choose the blue one.                        

The following tips can be followed to keep in mind the usage of the following interrogative pronouns:
  1. To refer to people, we should use pronouns who, whom or which.
  2. To refer objects and animals, we can use pronouns like what and which.
  3. In order to refer to a subject, we can use who.
  4. The object of a verb  or object of the preposition can be expressed with the help of pronoun ‘whom’

For example:
  • Who was playing the guitar yesterday? - Here, the subject is ‘who’ in the question.
  • To whom did u hand over the book? - Whom is the object of the Preposition.
  • What are you talking about?
  • Once you learn to speak French, whom are you going to talk to? ‘Whom’ is the object of the verb.
  • Who opened the refrigerator? “Who” is the subject of the verb “opened.”


List of Interrogative Pronouns

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As discussed, there are five interrogative pronouns in total. They are which, who, whom, whose and what.

         Name of the interrogative  pronouns    Use    Example 
 1. Which  Asking for a choice/ any animal or  object              
 We have pineapple and guava- Which fruit would  you like to have?
 Which is the smallest animal on the earth?
        Which planet is nearest to the sun?                         
 2. Who  Asking for somebody/people
  Who is your class teacher?
  Who is the man in yellow shirt?
  Who is the tallest student in this class?
 3. Whom  Asking for a person
  Whom did you eat with?
  To whom shall I talk here?
  Whom did you see?
 4. Whose  Asking for ownership/possession
  Whose pen is this?
  Whose shirt is lying on the clothesline?
  Whose car did you drive here?
 5. What  Asking for information
  What are you talking about?
  What is your dog’s name?
  What did you eat in lunch today?  

Points to Remember:
  • Interrogative pronouns are those pronouns which are used to ask questions.
  • We generally prefer to use ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’ in English.
  • The interrogative pronouns are often called the 5 W’s - who, whom, what, which and whose.
  • Pronouns can be used in sentences which are not questions. In such cases, the mentioned pronouns are not interrogative.
  • Few pronouns that start with ‘W’ are not interrogative pronouns. Example: When, Why, Where – They start with w but they are not considered as interrogative pronouns.
  • The subject of a verb can be expressed with the help of interrogative pronoun ‘who.’

Use of Who and Whom
Sometimes we are very confused regarding the use of who and whom. We can understand their uses better with the help of the following examples:
  • Who gave the food?
          (Here who is the subject of the verb- gave)
  • To whom did you give the food?
          (Who is always the subject of the verb, while whom can never be the subject of the verb)

Interrogative Pronoun Examples

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Some examples of Interrogative pronouns are stated under:

1. Who

   a)  Who will design the new logo? 
   b)  Who is going to the theatre? 
   c)  Who is sitting beside that girl?
   d)  Who is the person with a big mustache?
   e)  Who is smoking in the public area?

2. Which

   a)  Which is the tallest building in America?
   b)  We have Samsung and Nokia sets-Which one do you want?
   c)  Which is the sweetest fruit in India?
   d)  Which animal can run the fastest?
   e)  Which is the biggest river in the world?

3. What

   a)  What is your favorite fruit?
   b)  What color attracts you the most?
   c)  What is better- tea or coffee?
   d)  What is your opinion?
   e)  What are you doing?

4. Whose

   a)  Whose chocolate is this?
   b)  Whose bag is lying here?
   c)  Whose wallet is missing?
   d)  Whose hair is brown in colour?
   e)  Whose pen is with me?

5. Whom

   a)  To whom should I talk about my problem?
   b)  Whom do you suggest we nominate for class president? 
   c)  Whom did she go to meet? 
   d)  To whom should I give the money?

Not only does the English Language follow the rules of Interrogative Pronouns. In other languages like French, Russian, Chinese, German, the rules are adhered. In English, since all the interrogatives start with W, so they can be easily remembered. No matter what the language is, the function of the interrogative pronouns remains the same. We use them in the form of a question to understand things that we are not aware of.  Once we gain the knowledge of the common rules of the interrogative pronouns, it becomes very easy to use them.  The only difficult thing is the use of who or whom. But we can learn their usage as well with regular practice of interrogative pronouns. 

Complete the exercise sentences with the right interrogative pronouns (who, whom, whose, what, which).
  1.  ______is the villain here?
  2.  ______ is dancing?
  3.  To _____ did you send the itinerary?
  4.  ______ shoes should I wear with this skirt – my white ones or my black ones?
  5.  ______is the first man to land on the moon?
  6.  ______dog is this?" "It belongs to Jack."
  7.  ______ bike did you borrow?"
  8.  ______do they drink?  
  9.  ______of them is the youngest?
  10.  ______ caused the Earthquake?
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