What versus Which

What versus Which? We use both what and which to ask questions. As a determiner, what and which are often used almost the same way with slight differences. We use what more commonly when the range of answers is not restricted. We use which when there is a restricted range of answers


what is used to ask when there are infinite possibilities for an answer. You know that there are many ways that exist to address your question, and you make from all the possibilities the best choice.

For example: “What is your favorite golf player?”


which is used if you are choosing between a more limited number of items, already defined.

For example: “Which shoes should I wear with this pants —my red ones or my white ones-?”

Image by Ross Mann from Pixabay

Let´s learn when to use “what” and “which” in different situations.

What: is used when there is an unlimited choice (lots of possibilities).

Which: is used where there is a limited choice (fewer possibilities). 

“Which” and “what” are both pronouns used to ask questions or to refer to something unspecified. However, they are used in slightly different contexts:

  1. “Which”:
    • “Which” is used when you are asking about a specific item or a limited set of options, implying a choice between alternatives.
    • Example: “Which book do you prefer, the red one or the blue one?”
    • Example: “Which restaurant should we go to tonight?”
    • “Which” is also used to inquire about a particular one or ones out of a group.
    • Example: “Which car is yours?”
  2. “What”:
    • “What” is used when you are asking for information about something in general or when the options are not limited or specified.
    • Example: “What is your favorite color?”
    • Example: “What time does the movie start?”
    • “What” is also used to ask for identification or to introduce a clause that defines something.
    • Example: “What is that strange noise?”
    • Example: “I don’t understand what you mean.”

In summary, “which” is used when there is a specific choice or selection among options, while “what” is used for general inquiries or when the options are not specified.

What + noun

– What color is your shirt?

– What time is it?

Which + noun (things or people)

– Which bus did you catch -the 8 or the 9-?

– Which lawyer did you see -Dr. Dohan or Dr. Jill-?

We use which without a noun for things, not people.

– Which is bigger Africa or Asia?

– Which is better Nike or Adidas?

We use which when we have a limited option. Which for choices and limited groups.

– Among these five jackets, which is yours?

– Which beer do you prefer, Corona or Budweiser?

– Which browser do you use, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer?

What is more general.

– What car would you like to buy?

– What is the capital of Australia?

– What are you doing?

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