What Are Interrogative Pronouns? (with Examples)

Interrogative Pronouns

The main interrogative pronouns are what, which, who, whom, and whose. Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions. The other, less common interrogative pronouns are the same as the ones above but with the suffix -ever or -soever (e.g., whatever, whichever, whatsoever, whichsoever).

interrogative pronouns English grammar

Easy Examples of Interrogative Pronouns

  • What is that?
  • Which is yours?
  • Who done it?
  • Whom shall we ask?
  • Whose is this?
  • Whatever did you say?
  • Whomsoever did you find?
  • Whosever is this?
The suffix -ever and -soever are used for emphasis or to show surprise. (The suffix -soever is less common as it considered old fashioned.)

Click on Two Interrogative Pronouns

Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...
Getting ready...

Real-Life Examples of Interrogative Pronouns

  • What is originality? Undetected plagiarism. (Dean of St Paul's Cathedral William Inge)
  • What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (William Shakespeare)
  • (Here, the word which is not an interrogative pronoun. (It's actually a relative pronoun.) Remember that most words can play several different roles (or "functions" as grammarians like to say). In other words, which is only an interrogative pronoun when it's functioning as one!)
  • Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  • (Here, which is an interrogative pronoun.)
Interrogative pronouns can also be used to create indirect questions.
  • Do you know what this is?
  • (Here, the interrogative pronoun what is being used in an indirect question (bold), which is part of a wider question.)
  • I want to know what this is.
  • (Indirect questions can also feature in statements, i.e., in non-questions.)
Do not confuse interrogative pronouns with interrogative determiners (called "interrogative adjectives" in traditional grammar), which look the same as interrogative pronouns.
  • Which feat is the greater?
  • (This is not an interrogative pronoun. It is an interrogative determiner. The word Which modifies feat. Therefore, it's a determiner.)
Do not confuse interrogative pronouns with interrogative adverbs (how, when, why, where), which are also used to ask questions.
  • Who are you and how did you get in here?
    I'm a locksmith. And...I'm a locksmith. (from the 1982 TV series "Police Squad!")
  • (In this example, the answer to the interrogative pronoun who is the noun phrase a locksmith. The answer to the interrogative adverb how is the unstated adverbial phrase by virtue of being a locksmith. The answer to a question starting with an interrogative pronoun will be a noun (typically a person, place, or thing). The answer to a question starting with an interrogative adverb (how, when, why, where) will be an adverb (typically a manner, a time, a reason, or a term linked to place, e.g., in the city.)

Why Should I Care about Interrogative Pronouns?

Mistakes involving interrogative pronouns are rare, but there are two good reasons to know about interrogative pronouns.

(Reason 1) Avoid errors with who and whom.

By the far the biggest issue with interrogative pronouns is using who when whom should be used. Remember that you can only use who when it is the subject of a verb. This is a simpler idea than you might think. I, he, she, we, and they are just like who because they are also used as the subjects of verbs (they're even called subjective pronouns). Me, him, her, us, and them are just like whom because they are not used as the subjects of verbs (they're called objective pronouns).
  • Who knows her?
  • (The subject of knows is who. Who is correct.)
  • Who do you know?
  • (The subject of know is you not who. Who is wrong.)
  • Whom do you know?
Read more about who and whom.

(Reason 2) Create rhetorical questions.

An interrogative pronoun can be used to ask a rhetorical question (a question for which no answer is expected). Posing a rhetorical question is an efficient and engaging way of making a point or introducing a new idea.
  • What is a weed? A weed is a plant whose virtues have never been discovered. (American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Read more about rhetorical questions.
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See Also

Take a longer test on interrogative pronouns Take a test on interrogative pronouns What are interrogative adjectives? What is an interrogative sentence? Who or whom? What are pronouns? The different types of pronouns Demonstrative pronouns Indefinite pronouns Personal pronouns Possessive pronouns Reciprocal pronouns Relative pronouns Reflexive pronouns Glossary of grammatical terms