Understanding and Using Interrogative Pronouns: Grammar Essentials

Have you ever stumbled over which question word to use when crafting a sentence? You’re not alone! Today, we’re diving into the world of interrogative pronouns, those handy words that help us ask all the important questions.

Whether you’re writing a novel, a news article, or just a simple email, knowing how to use these pronouns can improve your writing and help you ask clear questions.

A pronoun that is used in asking a question is called an interrogative pronoun. Interrogative pronouns help us ask questions about people, places, things, and ownership. The main characters in this group are: who, whom, what, which, and whose.

♦ Who is your neighbour?
♦ Whom have you chosen?
♦ What did he say?
♦ Which is correct?
♦ Whose voice is that?

Types of Interrogative Pronouns

Let’s break down how to use each interrogative pronoun.

Who

Use who when you need to identify a person.

♦ Who ate the last cookie?

Here, you’re asking about the person responsible for the disappearing cookie.

Whom

This one might sound formal, but it’s used when you’re referring to the object of a verb. Think of it like the receiving end of an action.

♦ Whom did you call?

Implies that you’re asking about the person who was called.

What

This is your go-to when you’re curious about things or information.

♦ What is your favourite book?

This example asks for specific information about book preferences.

Which

Use which when you want someone to choose among a specific set of items.

♦ Which of these movies do you want to watch?

In this example, you can only choose from the movies you’ve just mentioned.

Whose

This is all about ownership.

♦ Whose jacket is this?

This question is asking about the owner of the jacket.

Using Interrogative Pronouns

Choosing the right interrogative pronoun depends heavily on the context of your question. Think of it like picking the right tool for a job. You wouldn’t use a hammer to screw in a lightbulb, right? Similarly, selecting the correct interrogative pronoun helps you communicate more clearly and effectively.

Inflection

Who has a possessive whose, and an objective whom. Which and what are not inflected.

Gender

Who may be masculine, feminine or neutral; which and what may be of any gender

Who or Whom?

The objective whom usually starts a question.

♦ Whom have you chosen?

Be careful not to use who instead of whom.

Interrogative Adjectives

We use which and what as interrogative adjectives.

♦ What street do I take?
♦ What town are we in?

Exclamatory Sentences

You can use the word what! in exclamatory sentences.

♦ What a cold night!
♦ What courage they must have had!

The word What! is frequently used as an exclamation on its own

♦ What! Do you really think so?

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Exercises for Using Interrogative Pronouns

Can you add the correct interrogative pronouns to these sentences?

  1. ________ is going to the party tonight?
  2. ________ did you give the book to?
  3. ________ are we having for dinner?
  4. ________ book do you think is better?
  5. ________ shoes are these at the door?
  6. ________ kind of music do you like?
  7. ________ are the main characters in the story?
  8. ________ shall we invite to the meeting?
  9. ________ is your jacket, the red one or the blue one?
  10. ________ were you thinking about just now?
  11. ________ wants to go shopping later?
  12. ________ turn is it to choose the movie?
  13. ________ time does the train leave?
  14. ________ of these pens works best?
  15. ________ did he tell the secret to first?
  16. ________ could believe such a thing?
  17. ________ book did you borrow for the class?
  18. ________ colors do you want for your painting?
  19. ________ one of these keys opens the garage?
  20. ________ knows the answer to the last question on the quiz?
Click on the + button for the answers
  1. Who is going to the party tonight?
  2. Whom did you give the book to?
  3. What are we having for dinner?
  4. Which book do you think is better?
  5. Whose shoes are these at the door?
  6. What kind of music do you like?
  7. Who are the main characters in the story?
  8. Whom shall we invite to the meeting?
  9. Which is your jacket, the red one or the blue one?
  10. What were you thinking about just now?
  11. Who wants to go shopping later?
  12. Whose turn is it to choose the movie?
  13. What time does the train leave?
  14. Which of these pens works best?
  15. Whom did he tell the secret to first?
  16. Who could believe such a thing?
  17. Whose book did you borrow for the class?
  18. What colours do you want for your painting?
  19. Which one of these keys opens the garage?
  20. Who knows the answer to the last question on the quiz?

Tips for Using Interrogative Pronouns

1. Understand the Basics: Make sure you know what each interrogative pronoun means and when it is used (who, whom, what, which, whose).

2. Use Who for People: Remember, who refers to the subject of a question, dealing with people.

3. Proper Use of Whom: Use whom for the object of a verb or preposition.

4. Keep What General: Use what when referring to things, actions, or concepts.

5. Be Specific with Which: Use which when you want the reader to choose from a specific set of items.

6. Clarify Ownership with “Whose”: Use whose to inquire about possession.

7. Keep It Natural: Use interrogative pronouns in a way that sounds natural and conversational, especially in dialogue.
8. Mix It Up: Vary your sentence structures to keep your questions interesting and dynamic.
9. Match the Tone: Adjust the formality of your interrogative pronouns to suit the tone of your writing. Whom is more formal than who.

10. Study Good Examples: Look at examples of well-formed questions in literature or professional writing to see effective interrogative pronoun use.

Last Words on Using Interrogative Pronouns

Using interrogative pronouns correctly isn’t just about grammar; it’s about engaging your reader with clear, direct questions. In journalism, effective questions can uncover truth. In literature, they can deepen character development. And in academic writing, they can guide the direction of inquiry and discussion.


Remember, like any aspect of language, practice makes perfect. Keep experimenting with these in different contexts and see how they can enhance your questions.

Happy writing!

Linda

 

Feature Image by AJS1 from Pixabay.

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