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Interrogative Pronoun






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Title: Interrogative Pronouns Demystified: Definition, Functions, and Instances

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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Interrogative pronouns are super important in English grammar. They help ask questions and get specific information. The main ones are “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “which,” and “what.” They replace nouns in questions to make things easier to understand. You can use them to get clear, detailed answers or to show curiosity about people, things, or ideas. Interrogative pronouns have different jobs in sentences, like being the subject, object, or possessive. They make sentences more understandable and can do lots of different things.

Types of Interrogative Pronouns


Interrogative pronouns hold an indispensable position within the intricate web of English grammar. The pronoun “who” assumes the role of the focal point, directing our inquiries toward the identity and inherent qualities of an individual. A prime illustration is found in the probing question, “Who is the new student?” In stark contrast, the pronoun “whom” emerges as the target, serving as the recipient of an action or the object thereof. An illustrative instance lies in the query, “To whom did you give the book?” While the disparity between “who” and “whom” may appear nuanced at first glance, it is of paramount importance to utilize “who” when the pronoun assumes the subject position in a clause or sentence and to employ “whom” when it assumes the object position, thus securing linguistic harmony.

The profound disparity between the pronouns “who” and “whom” resides in their grammatical functionalities within a sentence. The pronoun “who” primarily operates as the subject or subject complement, denoting the individual executing the action or being depicted. Conversely, the pronoun “whom” assumes the role of the object of a verb or preposition, signifying the individual on the receiving end of the action or adversely affected by it. To ascertain the correct employment of “who” or “whom,” a comprehensive analysis of sentence structure is imperative. Should the pronouns function as the agent of the action, “who” must be enlisted; conversely, if it assumes the role of the recipient or object of the action, “whom” shall be deemed the apt selection.


The interrogative pronoun “what” serves as a linguistic tool that instigates direct or indirect inquiries, extracting precise details or clarification. As an interrogative pronoun, “what” finds utility in probing the essence, identity, or attributes of a subject, object, or occurrence. Moreover, “what” assumes the role of a relative pronoun, ushering in relative clauses to impart supplementary elucidation or to delimit the subject or object within a sentence. Here are some interrogative pronoun examples of how “what” is used in questions:

  • What is the capital of France?
  • What time does the movie start?
  • What is your favorite color?

In a particular context, the utilization of the term “what” arises in the pursuit of acquiring intricate particulars pertaining to the nature, quality, or characteristics of a noun or object. For instance, it can be effectively employed to inquire about descriptive aspects, such as “What color is the sky?” or “What are the main components of a cell?” Moreover, “what” can be employed to elicit  preferences or alternatives in situations, as in “What would you like to have for lunch?” or “What are your career aspirations?” Furthermore, “what” functions as an integral part of indirect questions, offering a tactful means to solicit information while evading overt directness. For instance, “Can you tell me what time the event starts?” or “I wonder what her favorite book is.”


The pronoun “which” frequently initiates relative clauses, forging intricate links between the principal clause and a subordinate clause. “Which” is a relative pronoun that assumes the role of a relative pronoun, thereby augmenting the information about the noun or pronoun it modifies. It is primarily employed in reference to inanimate objects or animals. For example, in the sentence “The book, which is on the shelf, belongs to Sarah,” “which” introduces the relative clause “is on the shelf” and describes the book.

When determining whether to use “which” or “what,” it becomes imperative to meticulously contemplate the contextual milieu and underlying intention of the question. “Which” is used when presenting a limited set of choices or options, implying that the question seeks to differentiate or select from among them. On the other hand, “what” is employed when the question seeks information without any predetermined options or limited choices. It is more open-ended and invites a broader range of responses.


The pronoun “whose” stands as a possessive pronoun, signifying the notion of possession or ownership. It frequently finds application within the English language to denote the intricate bond between an individual or entity and the possessed object. “Whose” is used when referring to people, animals, or things, and it functions as an interrogative pronoun, introducing a question that seeks information about ownership. For instance, in the sentence “To whom does this book belong?”, “whose” initiates an inquiry concerning the book’s possessor. Similarly, in the sentence “A gratification was granted to the student whose academic performance exhibited enhancement,” “whose” assumes the role of a relative pronoun, tethering the subordinate clause “whose academic performance exhibited enhancement” to the noun “student,” signifying the ownership of the improved academic accomplishments.

“Whose,” functioning as a relative pronoun, serves to initiate subordinate clauses that provide additional information about the possessor or ownership of a preceding noun. An interrogative pronoun example of this usage would be, “The student, whose textbook was misplaced, requested assistance from the teacher.”

Usage of Interrogative Pronouns

The role of interrogative pronouns in extracting particular particulars or seeking elucidation cannot be undermined. Through the utilization of these pronouns, one can probe into the realms of individuals, entities, deeds, attributes, or whereabouts. Interrogative pronouns assume the guise of question subjects or objects, thus allowing for precise and focused queries. To form a question, one typically begins with the interrogative pronoun, followed by the auxiliary verb, subject, and main verb. For instance, “Who is the protagonist in the novel?” or “What are the main components of the solar system?”

Interrogative pronouns in direct questions are used to ask for specific information. These pronouns introduce questions by embodying the desired category of response. For example, “Who is the president?” or “What is your favorite color?” They help gather details about individuals, objects, qualities, or locations.

Furthermore, these pronouns fulfill the purpose of metamorphosing a direct question into an indirect one, thus altering the structure and syntax of the sentence. This grammatical construct is particularly useful in scenarios such as reporting questions, expressing uncertainty, or maintaining a more formal tone.

Examples of Interrogative Pronouns

Who/Whom: Sample Sentences

  • Who won the singing competition last night?
  • To whom did you lend your book?
  • Who is going to pick up the groceries?

What: Sample Sentences

  • What is the capital city of France?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?
  • What is the purpose of this experiment?

Which: Sample Sentences

  • Which team won the championship last year?
  • I can’t decide which restaurant to go to for dinner.
  • Which of the two options is more cost-effective?

Whose: Sample Sentences

  • Whose pen is this? I found it on the desk.
  • The woman whose car was stolen reported the incident to the police.
  • Whose turn is it to speak at the meeting?

Interrogative Pronouns in Everyday Conversations

These pronouns enable individuals to extract specific details and knowledge. For example, “who” facilitates the identification of distinct persons or collectives, while “what” explains the attributes of a subject. Moreover, “where” tirelessly pursues information based on geographical coordinates, “when” focuses on time-related details, “why” delves into reasons or causality, and “how” investigates the manner or method.

Here are some common expressions and phrases with interrogative pronouns:

  • Who’s there?
  • Whose turn is it?
  • What time is it?
  • Which one do you prefer?
  • How are you?

Tips for Using Interrogative Pronouns Correctly

When using interrogative pronouns, it is paramount to ensure their proper agreement with both the verb and noun in a sentence. Agreement with the verb refers to matching the form of the verb with the grammatical number and person indicated by the interrogative pronoun. For instance, when using singular interrogative pronouns such as “who,” “what,” or “which,” the accompanying verb should be in the third-person singular form. Conversely, when using plural interrogative pronouns like “who” (referring to multiple people), the verb should be in the third-person plural form. Maintaining this agreement ensures grammatical accuracy and clarity in your communication.

To create a  grammatically coherent interrogative sentence, you need to adhere to a structured framework comprising various components. interrogative pronoun + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb + additional details. For instance, when seeking information concerning an individual’s identity, the appropriate structure would be “Who is the person?”

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Key Takeaways

  • Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions and gather specific information.
  • The correct word order in questions using interrogative pronouns is: interrogative pronoun + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb + additional details.
  • Interrogative pronouns can also be used in non-question sentences, particularly in indirect or embedded questions.
  • Common examples of interrogative pronouns include “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how.”
  • To avoid mistakes, ensure proper word order, select the appropriate interrogative pronoun based on context, and differentiate between “whose” and “who’s.”


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between "which" and "what" as interrogative pronouns?
  • The difference between “which” and “what” as interrogative pronouns resides within their specificity. “Which” finds utility in cases where there is a limited set of options to choose from, while “what” is used when the options are open-ended or the speaker’s cognizance of the alternatives remains uncertain.
How do we use "whose" as an interrogative pronoun?

“Whose” is used as an interrogative pronoun, serving as an instrument of inquiry pertaining to possession or ownership. Its purpose lies in the exploration of the person to whom something belongs.

Can interrogative pronouns be used in non-question sentences?

Yes, interrogative pronouns can be used in non-question sentences, often in indirect or embedded questions. For instance, in the sentence “He asked me what I wanted,” “what” is used to introduce an indirect question within a statement.

What are some common examples of interrogative pronouns in sentences?
  • Common examples of interrogative pronouns in sentences include “who,” as in “Who is coming to the party?”; “what,” as in “What is your favorite color?”; “where,” as in “Where did you go on vacation?”; “when,” as in “When will the meeting start?”; “why,” as in “Why are you upset?”; and “how,” as in “How did you solve the problem?”
How do we avoid common mistakes when using interrogative pronouns?

To avoid common mistakes when using interrogative pronouns, it is important to ensure proper word order in questions, as mentioned earlier. Additionally, pay attention to the context and intended meaning to select the appropriate interrogative pronoun.

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