The English language is full of intricacies and nuances that can leave even the most experienced writers scratching their heads. Two commonly confused words in English are what and which. Even though both words are used to ask questions, they are not interchangeable, and their usage is determined by the context.
In this article, we will explore the difference between what and which and provide you with some tips to use them correctly in your writing.
The Difference Between What and Which
What and which are both interrogative pronouns, which means they are used to ask questions. However, there is a subtle difference in their usage.
What is used to ask for general information or a description. For example, “What is your favorite color?” or “What did you eat for breakfast?” When you use what in a question, you are asking for the speaker’s opinion, desire, thought, or idea.
On the other hand, which is used to ask for specific information or a choice between options. For example, “Which book do you want to read?” or “Which path shall we take?” In these questions, you are implying that the listener has a choice or options from which they need to choose.
One way to remember the difference is to associate them with the types of questions they are used for. What is used for open-ended questions, and which is used for closed-ended questions.
When to Use What
What is often used to ask for general, non-specific information about something. Here are some examples:
– What is your favorite color?
– What kind of music do you like to listen to?
– What do you do for a living?
– What is the meaning of life?
Note that in all of these questions, you are asking for a general or non-specific answer. You are not limiting the listener’s choices, opinions, or options.
When to Use Which
Which, on the other hand, is used to ask for specific information. Here are some examples:
– Which movie do you want to watch?
– Which restaurant do you want to go to for dinner?
– Which car do you think is the best?
In all of these questions, you are asking the listener to choose from a limited set of options. You are not asking for their opinion or general information.
Using What and Which in Writing
Using what and which can be tricky sometimes, especially in writing. Here are some tips to help you use them correctly in your writing:
1. Determine the Context
Before using what or which, determine the context of your question. Are you asking for general information or specific options? This will help you decide which interrogative pronoun to use.
2. Be Clear and Specific
When using which, be clear and specific about the choices or options. This will help the listener or reader understand what options they have to choose from.
3. Avoid Using Both in the Same Question
Avoid using both what and which in the same sentence or question. This can make your sentence ambiguous and confusing for the reader or listener.
4. Use Them in the Correct Order
When using what or which in a sentence, make sure to use them in the correct order. In general, what comes before the verb and which comes after it. For example:
– What is your favorite food?
– Which color do you prefer?
5. Keep it Simple
Finally, keep your questions simple and concise. Avoid using complex language or unnecessarily long sentences, as this can make your writing difficult to understand.
In summary, what and which are two interrogative pronouns in English that are often confused. What is used for general information or description, while which is used for specific information or choices. By understanding their context and usage, you can use these words correctly in your writing and communication.