What Versus Which

When it comes to the English language, certain differences in usage can cause confusion among people, particularly with two commonly used words, “what” and “which.” Although both words are used to ask questions and gather information, each has a particular function and purpose that sets them apart from each other.

In this article, we will explore the differences between “what” and “which” and help you understand when these words are appropriate to use. But first, let us define what these words mean exactly.

“What” is a pronoun that is used to introduce a direct question, and typically used to ask about general and unspecified things or ideas. For instance, “what is the capital city of France?” or “what time is it?”.

“Which” is also a pronoun, but of a different kind. It is mostly used to indicate a choice or selection as in, “which one do you prefer – Coke or Pepsi?” or “which book should I read?” In other words, “which” is more specific than “what” and is used when there are limited options to choose from.

Now that you know what each pronoun refers to, let us now delve deeper into their differences.

Usage of “What”

As mentioned earlier, “what” is usually used to ask for the general information about an object or a situation. This is because “what” has broader, and vaguer significance that enables a speaker to introduce or refer any subject in a more general sense.

For example, you may use “what” when asking about someone’s job like “What do you do for a living?”. By using “what” in this question, the speaker is open to hearing any profession without specifying the particular occupations they have in mind.

Another example, “What are your hobbies?” in this question, the speaker is open to hearing any hobby the person may have. “What” is more often used for open-ended questions than “which”.

Furthermore, “what” is also used to ask for information or clarification about a situation. For example, “What is going on here?” In this question, the speaker is asking for the situation of the place they are in, and someone could respond like “Someone is announcing the wedding ceremony”.

Ultimately, “what” is used to ask for general information or definitions of objects, ideas, or subjects.

Usage of “Which”

In contrast to “what,” “which” is more specific in its usage. It is often used with a limited set of options or choices to inquire what the speaker should select.

For example, someone would say, “Which jacket should I wear today?” So that speaker is asking anyone who is present at the moment to help them choose between two different jackets. Other situations when “which” is used includes:

– Choosing one thing from multiple options: “Which color shirt do you want?

– Getting clarification: “Which street is the best to go to the cinema?”

– Indicating preferences: “Which holiday destination should we choose this summer?”

In summary, “which” is a pronoun used for specific things to choose from, while “what” refers more to generalities and descriptions.

Tips for using “What” and “Which” correctly

1. Use “what” to ask general questions – Use “what” when you want to ask open-ended questions that lead to more detailed answers.

2. Use “which” to ask specific questions – Use “which” when you want the person to select one specific thing from a set of options.

3. Use “what” to ask for information – Use “what” when you want to clarify something or get more information about a situation.

4. Use “which” to show preference – Use “which” when you are trying to indicate a preference among different options.

In conclusion, the differences between “what” and “which” seem simple, but their usage can cause confusion in communication. It is essential to understand their differences to use them correctly while speaking or writing. Therefore, the simplest rule is to remember that “what” is used for general or broader topics, while “which” is used when comparing or selecting specific options.