There are several types of pronouns in the English language. One of them is the interrogative pronoun. But what is the use of interrogative pronouns? Go back to my previous sentence, and you have your answer!
Keep reading to know the interrogative pronoun definition. My guide will also teach you the rules on its correct usage through several sentence examples.
What is an Interrogative Pronoun?
Interrogative pronouns are a type of pronoun used to ask a question. Their antecedent is the answer to the question, either a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun.
For example, if your best friend’s name is Jia, the antecedent of who in the sentence, Who is your best friend? Is Jia. You can change interrogative sentences into declarative if you know the antecedent of the interrogative pronoun. For example:
- Interrogative sentence: Who buys ice cream for the kids?
- Declarative sentence: Fred buys ice cream for the kids.
Interrogative pronouns answer open-ended questions, meaning the answer varies between options. They include what, who, where, when, why, which, whose, whom, and how.
These pronouns rarely answer close-ended questions but also answers rhetorical questions (a question that creates a dramatic effect instead of getting an answer).
Sometimes, they have the suffix -ever, like whatever, whatsoever, whichever, whomever, etc.
Other types of pronouns include personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, indefinite pronouns, relative pronouns, reciprocal pronouns, intensive pronouns, reflexive pronouns, and demonstrative pronouns.
List of Interrogative Pronouns
Take a look at this interrogative pronouns list I made and their functions in sentences.
Who and Whom
Who and whom are interrogative pronoun examples that ask questions where the answer is the person. Who is a subject, while whom is an object. For example:
- Who has an extra eraser?
- To whom did you give the card? (Whom did you give the card to? Is only for informal writing because we don’t end sentences with prepositions).
Whose indicates possession. Therefore, its antecedent is a possessive noun. You can use it as a noun head as well. For example:
- Whose is this pen? (pronoun).
- Whose pen is this? (noun head).
What asks a question where the answer is an object, animal, or abstract noun. For example:
- What are we having for supper?
Which asks a question where there are multiple options on the answer. It’s usually used when one is trying to choose between things. For example:
- Which is your favorite city?
Other Interrogative Pronouns
Some interrogative pronouns have the suffix -ever. Here are some of them.
Rules for Interrogative Pronouns
Here are some rules for the correct usage of interrogative pronouns.
Who or whom?
Who and whom may both address people. However, they have different placements or functions in a sentence. Who is always the subject of the sentence. Meanwhile, whom is always an object of the sentence.
Here are some examples of who and whom as interrogative pronouns in sentences.
- Who baked this cake?
- Whom did you visit?
What or which?
Both what and which have objects, animals, and abstract concepts as answers. But it would help if you used which when the answer is restricted to a specific range of responses. Use it when trying to make a choice.
Take a look at these sentences with interrogative pronouns what and which.
- What is your address?
Whoever and Whomever as Other Types of Pronouns
Interrogative pronouns answer questions. But whatever can also be a subjective pronoun. It can act as a subject of sentences or clauses. For example:
- Whoever threw the paper should find it.
Whomever is an objective pronoun that is used as the object of sentences. Consider the sample sentences below.
- Give this gift to whomever you want.
- I like whomever I like.
Note how the three types of sentences above are all declarative. That means whoever and whomever here are not interrogative pronouns.
Interrogative Pronouns vs. Interrogative Adverbs
You might wonder why when, why, how, and where are not part of the interrogative pronouns list. That’s because they answer adverbs instead of nouns or noun phrases. Therefore, they are not considered pronouns.
Check out these examples of how the interrogative pronoun what differs from the interrogative adverb how.
- What time is it? (7:30 AM).
- How did you chase the dog? (Quickly).
Other Cases of Interrogative Pronouns as Other Parts of Speech
Who, whom, what, whose, and which are not always interrogative pronouns. Sometimes, they can be relative pronouns. These are pronouns that introduce relative clauses instead of asking a question. For example:
- The doctor who talked to me said I was okay.
- I work in a building whose windows are made of glass.
Indirect Questions are Not Interrogative Sentences
Indirect questions are not interrogative questions. Therefore, they don’t always have interrogative pronouns. Here’s an example:
- She asked me if I was hungry,
This sentence is declarative and has an indirect question. It has no question mark and interrogative pronoun.
Interrogative Pronouns Summary
This guide has shown you several interrogative pronoun examples and rules. Remember that an interrogative pronoun is a type of pronoun known to ask questions.
Hopefully, it helps you become proficient in English, whether you’re a native speaker or not. What other pronouns do you want to learn about?