There are only five main interrogative pronouns, all of which begin with –wh: who, whom, whose, which, and what. Each of these pronouns is used when asking a specific question. They are only used to ask questions and not for any other grammatical constructions. However, the five pronouns can also be used in sentences. As long as they are not used in questions, they are not interrogative pronouns.  

 

Out of the five interrogative pronouns, only who and whom refer to people while which and what are used for things. These pronouns do not have gender. The other pronouns considered as interrogative pronouns are whatever, whoever, whomever, and whichever.

 

We use interrogative pronouns when we need to know something – something that we have no knowledge of. There are other words beginning with –wh and we should not confuse them with the interrogative pronouns as they are not. The words are when, where, and why. Unlike other pronouns, the interrogative pronoun does not have an antecedent as the antecedent is unknown.

 

Using the five interrogative pronouns

 

Examples:

  • Who is that man in an overcoat and a bowler hat?
  • Who is standing next to you in the photo?
  • Whom are you shouting at?
  • Whom is she staying with?
  • What is the dog chewing?
  • What are you grumbling about?
  • Which do you think is better?
  • Which of the snakes is the most poisonous?
  • Whose is that car parked in front of the gate?
  • Whose are those puppies?

 

Interrogative pronouns have three cases

The interrogative pronouns can be used in the subjective, possessive, and objective cases.

 

Examples:

Subjective case

  • Who ate my pizza?
  • Which cost more – your car or mine?

  • What made you want to vomit?

Possessive case

What and which do not have a possessive form.

  • Whose baby is crying so loudly?

Objective case

  • Whom did you borrow that book from?
  • Which one are you aiming your gun at?

  • What are you thinking of?

 

'Who' may be used as the object

 

Examples:

  • Who do you invite to your party? (Object of verb invite)
  • Who are you complaining about the whole day? (Object of preposition about)

 

‘Whom’ cannot be used as the subject

 

Examples:

  • Incorrect:  Whom beat him up yesterday?
  • Correct: Who beat him up yesterday?

 

Whom can be used only as an object

 

Examples:

  • Whom did he kill? (Object of kill)
  • Whom are you thinking of to ask for help? (Object of preposition of)

 

 Preposition can be placed in front of interrogative pronounwhom’

Examples:

  • At whom are you so angry?
  • For whom are you baking this carrot cake?

  • With whom are you going on the trip?

    Avoid repeating the preposition
  • Wrong:  With whom are you going on the trip with?

 

Other interrogative pronouns: whatever, whoever, whomever, and whichever

 

Examples:

  • He can say whatever he wants, nobody will believe him.
  • A reward will be given to whoever provides information leading to the arrest of the wanted man.

  • She is handing out leaflets to whomever will accept it.

  • It was like a buffet, we could choose whatever of the dishes we liked.