Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

Question Words What and Which

  Email this page

What and which are question words. They are both used to ask for specific information about things, but you use them in different situations.

In this lesson, you will learn when to use what and which correctly. You will also learn how to use which of and which one or which ones.

Lesson objectives: Learn question words in English.

Goals: Learn how to ask questions using “what,” “which,” and “which of” to get specific information about things.

Prerequisite: Lesson requires a basic understanding of the verb to be in the present.

Level

 basic

What or Which?

We use what to ask for information about something when the answer can be anything; the question is not about choosing. The choice is unlimited.

We use which to ask for specific information from a selection of things. The question is about choosing one of a particular number of things. The choice is limited.

  • Examples using what when there is no choice
  • In the question below, the answer can be any color from all colors that exist:

    What is your favorite color?

  • In the question below, the answer can be any kind of ice cream from all kinds of ice cream that exist:

    What kind of ice cream is that?

  • In the question below, the answer can be any language from all the languages that exist:

    What languages do you speak? (The answer could be one or more languages.)

  • Examples using which with a choice
  • The question below is about three specific colors. You must choose one:

    Which color is your favorite: red, black, or blue?

  • In the question below is about two types of ice cream. You must choose one:

    Which kind of ice cream are you eating: gelato or sorbet?

  • The question below is about a specific number of languages. You must choose from those languages.

    Which Asian languages do you speak? (The answer is limited to Asian languages only, not all world languages.)

“Which?” and “Which of?”

Which involves choosing from a specific number or group of things. From that number of things, you choose one of them, two of them, three of them, and so one. When you use which you can include that in the question. In fact, you can also ask for information about people using which of.

  • Examples using which of
  • Which of these colors is your favorite? (You have only one choice.)

    Which of these colors are your favorites? (You have more than one choice.)

  • This college offers Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Arabic courses. Which of these languages would you like to learn?

  • You are talking to a friend in college. You say, “I still need take Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, and Computer Science this semester.” You ask,

    John, which of these courses are you taking this semester? (John may be taking one or more of these courses.)

    You can also ask,

    John, which of them are you taking this semester? John may be taking one or more of these courses.)

“Which One?”

You can use which one when the choice is clear from the context or situation. Use which ones when you can choose more than one.

  • Examples using which one and which one of
  • You are showing your new shirts to your friend. You ask,

    Which one do you like best?

    Here, you understand that the question is which shirt?

  • You know your friend Bob has three brothers. You have the following conversation,

    [Bob]: My brother is living in France now.

    [You]: Really? Which one?

    In this dialog, which one means which of your brothers?

  • [Sue]: I hate my professors!

    [You]: Really? Which ones?

    [Sue]: All of them!

  • You are talking to a friend in college. You say, “I still need take Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, and Computer Science this semester.” You ask,

    John, which one are you taking this semester? (You expect that John is taking only one of them.)

    John, which ones are you taking this semester? (You expect that John is taking more than one of them.)

Practice

Complete this exercise to practice “what” and “which,”

Other Lessons on Question Words

This list of lessons includes many other question words.

Congratulations on completing this lesson!

Snap Language supporters have made it possible for us to create this material.

Thank you!

Use the buttons below to choose another skill or lesson.