Interrogative Pronouns in English–Pronouns that Ask Questions
Interrogative pronouns are pronouns that ask questions. A pronoun takes the place of a noun. An interrogative pronoun takes the place of the unknown information the question asks about. There are 5 interrogative pronouns: who, whom, what, which, and whose. In this posting I talk about how to use these pronouns to ask questions. I give you many example sentences. The download at the end will give you additional practice using interrogative pronouns.
What are interrogative pronouns?
Interrogative pronouns are used in a sentence to take the place of the unknown information the sentence asks about. Here are the 5 interrogative pronouns and what they refer to.
- who–refers to a person or people
- whom–refers to a person or people
- what–refers to a thing or things
- which–refers to people or things. This word can refer to something singular or plural.
- whose–refers to a person
The interrogative pronouns who and whom
The interrogative pronoun who can function as the subject of a sentence. The formula we us is who + verb.
Who can also function as an object. The formula we use is who+ do/does/did + subject + base form of the verb
The interrogative pronoun whom is always an object. We use the formula whom + do/does/ did + subject + base form of the verb
The word whom is considered very formal English. Native speaker do no use it often, especially in conversation. Many native speakers of English do not know the difference between who and whom! Remember, who can be a subject or an object, but whom is always an object. We can say either,”Who did you talk to?” or “Whom did you talk to?” However, we must say “Who called you?” We can’t say “Whom called you?”
The interrogative pronoun what
The interrogative pronoun what is a word we use for a thing or things. It can be the subject of a sentence. here is the formula we use: what + verb.
Sometimes what can function as an object. When that happens we use the following formula: what + do/does/did + subject + base form of the verb
The word what can also function as an adjective when asking a question.
The interrogative pronoun which
The interrogative pronoun which is similar to what. However, it can refer to both things and people, and it can be either singular or plural. Which always involves a choice between two or more alternatives. Which may be the subject of a sentence. Use this formula: which + verb.
Which can also be an object. Use this formula when which is an object: which + do/does/did + subject + base form of the verb.
Finally, which can function as an adjective while asking a question.
The interrogative pronoun whose
Whose refers to a person. It implies possession. It means,” Who owns this object?,” or “Who does this thing belong to? It is often the subject of a sentence. This is the formula we use the whose is a subject: whose + be verb + pronoun
Whose can also function as an adjective when used to ask a question.
Be careful. It is easy to confuse whose with who’s. They have very different meanings. Whose is an interrogative pronoun that implies possession. Who’s is a contraction for who is. Look at the following sentences.
Interrogative pronouns with the word ever
We can add the word ever to an interrogative pronoun to add emphasis. We can also add ever to use an interrogative pronoun to make a statement rather than ask a question. Here are some examples.
- whoever— Whoever called us at 2:00 a.m.? This means that you are shocked that someone called you at 2:00 a.m.
You now know the five interrogative pronouns, who, whom, what, which, and whose. We use these pronouns to ask questions. They stand for the unknown information that the sentence asks about. Who, what, and which can be subjects, objects, or adjectives. Whom is always an object. It is considered very formal English, and we don’t use it very often. Whose can be a subject or an adjective. We can add ever to who, whom, what, or which to add emphasis or to make a statement. The download will give you additional practice using interrogative pronouns.
Idioms of the day
- what’s eating someone–This asks the question,”What is bothering someone.” Robert is very angry today. I wonder what’s eating him.
- when pigs fly–This refers to something that can or will never happen. My sister promised she would start paying all her bills on time. I think that will happen when pigs fly.