WHICH or WHAT?

17 Sep

When asking a question, many students of English are not sure when to use “which?” and when to use “what?”. Look at these questions and answers:

1) Question: “Which student is the best?” Answer: “It is Tom.”

2) Question: “What flowers do you usually buy for your wife?” Answer: “I usually give her roses.”

Why did we use “which” in the first sentence and “what” in the second one?

Use “which” when you have a selection to choose from. For example, we have been talking about books. I have told you that I have just bought two books at the bookshop – a crime novel and a Chinese poetry book. One of them is on the table, but you don’t know which one, so you ask “Which book is on the table?”

Use “what” when there is no selection. For example, you have just walked into my house, and you see a book on the table. You are curious, so you ask “What book is on the table?”

So, when you ask “which?”, you expect me to CHOOSE something. When you ask “what?”, you expect me to DESCRIBE or EXPLAIN something.

which or what

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