Interrogative Pronouns

Posted: March 19th, 2014, 1:08 pm   By: brittany.corners

Marty DiBergi: “What was he the saint of?”
David St. Hubbins: “He was the patron saint of quality footwear.”
-An interrogative pronoun leads to a saintly answer


This week, we explore interrogative pronouns.

Our ability to ask questions has distinguished Homo sapiens from our primate relatives since we first descended from the trees and wiggled our toes in the grass of the African savanna. Curiosity drives our species, spurring us to ponder the grand ideas of our existence. What happens to us when we die? Does an omnipotent and loving God oversee us all? Why hasn’t anyone offered a bounty on the people responsible for GEICO’s infuriating commercials?

We can use interrogative pronouns to ask such questions: who, whom, what, which, and whose. In fact, interrogative pronouns behave uniquely—creating questions by standing in for the answer to what we are asking. Let’s review the five basic interrogative pronouns and see how they work.

Who/Whom—asks about a person or people. As we’ve seen before, “who” refers to the subject of the question, and “whom” points to the object.

  • Ex) Who can help Ms. Alabama secure a quick-and-easy restraining order against Brent Woody Musburger?
  • Ex) Whom would you like to invite to your next birthday party, Skrillex? Might I suggest the fire chief?

What—asks for information specifying something.

  • Ex) What is wrong with helping out your cat with a little grooming?

Which—also asks for specifying information, but it refers to one or more people or things from within a given set.

  • Ex) Which NFL player wishes he had a breeze running down his leg?

Whose—technically, this is a possessive interrogative pronoun. It asks about something belonging to or associated with a particular person.

  • Ex) Whose opinions make a better financial investment than those of Sarah Palin, such as her proclamation that only lipstick separates a hockey mom from a dog?

Now you have the tools to explore your most pressing questions. As for me, I’m going to go scrape some money together for that bounty.