Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative Pronouns Street SignTopic: Interrogative Pronouns, with definition, usage, and examples

Pronoun errors are among the most common mistakes found in writing, especially interrogative pronouns.  While you use them everyday in speaking and writing, the question remains are you using them correctly. Remember, how you speak and write is a reflection on you so it doesn’t hurt to review exactly how correct pronoun usage works.

First, recall a pronoun’s function is to replace, or stand in for, a noun or pronoun.  Without pronouns, sentences are awkward or cumbersome.  Here’s an example.

Julie was late for class and Julie forgot today’s homework, too!

Would you actually say that? Probably not.

Now, below the pronoun “she” replaces the noun “Julie” in the second part of the sentence.

Julie was late for class and she forgot today’s homework, too!

See how using the pronoun “she” makes the sentence less awkward?  However, if you have to many antecedents (the word the pronoun references) in your writing and use the same pronoun in the next four or five paragraphs, your writing may be confusing.

Interrogative Pronouns

Just as there are different types of nouns and verbs, pronouns come in a variety of forms as well.  Pronouns are classified as demonstrative, personal, relative, reflexive, intensive and interrogative.

Interrogative pronouns are used – you guessed it – when you want to ask a question.  In many cases it doesn’t have an antecedent (the word the pronoun references) – thus the need to ask the question in the first place!

The most typical interrogative pronouns are…

  • What
  • Which
  • Who
  • Whom
  • Whose

And if you add the suffix “ever”…

  • Whatever
  • Whichever
  • Whoever
  • Whomever
  • Whosever

Though the above pronouns are certainly common enough, sometimes using them correctly can be a little tricky.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using interrogative pronouns.

  • The pronouns “who”, “whom” and sometimes “which” reference people.
  • The pronouns “what” and “which” reference inanimate objects and animals.
  • “Who” functions as a subject.
  • “Whom” functions as an object of a preposition or object of a verb.

For example…

Who are the signers of the Declaration of Independence?

“Who” is the subject in the above sentence.

To whom did you give the note?

“Whom” is the object of the preposition “to.”

Whom do you suggest we nominate for class president?

Here, “whom” is the object of the verb “nominate.”

Who will design the new logo?

“Who” is the object of the verb “will design.”

Keep in mind the above 10 interrogative pronouns are frequently seen as relative pronouns (pronouns that link phrases and clauses together) as well.  The difference is that while it’s possible to find a relative pronoun used in a question, interrogative pronouns only appear in a question.

More Sentence Examples of Interrogative Pronouns

In the following sentences the interrogative pronoun is underlined.

What are you talking about?
Who is the villain here?
Which color did you choose for your bedroom wall?
Whose camera is this?
Once you learn to speak French, whom are you going to talk to?

One more point to remember…

Don’t be vague with interrogative pronouns.  For example, do NOT write or say:

“Do you think they should raise taxes?” (Who does “they” refer to?)

Do you get the idea?

Using interrogative pronouns correctly isn’t difficult once you understand the specific grammar guidelines.  Once you do, your writing (and speaking) becomes clearer and therefore, more engaging to your audience.

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