Posted by: Idioma Extra | February 23, 2011

Thursday Tidbits

What or which?

English language learners sometimes have trouble knowing when to use what or which when asking questions or referring to more than one thing. For example, “What is his name?” and “Which is his name?” are both correct depending on the context. Some think they are interchangeable but, in fact, they are not. Let’s look at some examples of when to use what and when to use which.


What is generally used when there are many possibilities. For example:

What did you buy? (there are many possible things the person being asked could have bought)

What is the name of the band? (the person asking the question has no idea, so the possibilities are many)

What hospital did you go to? (there are many hospitals in the area)


Which is used when referring to only two or three specific things. For example:

Which computer did you buy? (the person being asked was deciding between 2 or 3 computer brands)

Which is the name of the band? (the person asking the question doesn’t remember if the name of the band was “Whitesnake” or “Whitesnack”)

Which hospital did you go to? (there are only two hospitals in the area)

Check Yourself

Complete the sentence or question with what or which.

1. _____________ day are you having the party, Friday or Saturday?

2. I’m not sure _______________ car I want to buy. The sports car or the economical one?

3. Do you know _____________ time the meeting the meeting starts?

4. ______________ is the name of your baby?

5. ______________ day does Christmas fall on this year?

6. ______________ one of your two brothers is married?

7. Do you know ______________ is the name of the currency in Morocco?

8. I can’t decide ______________ restaurant I want to eat at. TGI Friday’s or Soda Tapia?

9. _____________ is your sister’s name, Sally or Shelly?

10. Have you decided _____________ computer you’d like to buy?

Answer’s to last week’s Check Yourself

Choose the correct word to finish the sentence. In some cases, both might be possible.

1. The sun shines very (rare / rarely) in the wintertime.

2. I believe all the students are (present / presently).

3. I had a (hard / hardly) time finding your house.

4. My boss said it is (like / likely) that there will be cutbacks.

5. He hasn’t been coming to class (late / lately). (both are possible)

6. The doctors say he has a (rarely / rare) disease.

7. I am (likely / like) my mother in many ways.

8. All of the voters are (presently / present) at the meeting. (both are possible)

9. He said he will arrive (late / lately) to the party.

10. I (hard / hardly) have any time to do anything fun.

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