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Which

Which

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Which

 

Hello! In this lesson we will learn the question word "which". The question word "which" helps us discern the difference between and among people, places, things, and ideas.

 

In a previous lesson, we learned the question word "what". We use the question word "what" when the answer options are unlimited. For example, we could ask "What do you see?". The answer might be "I see a tree.", "I see the buildings." or any other possibility that we could imagine. However, we use the question word "which" when the options are limited. For example, we might ask "Which do you want – chicken or beef?", "Which office is yours – the big office or the small office?", or "Which chairs are yours – the big chairs or the small chairs?".

 

Did you notice that we repeated the nouns in the preceding two sentences? That's because there is a particular set of pronouns that we use with the question word "which".  We might have asked "Which office is yours – the big one or the small one?" In this question, the word "one" is substituted for the word "office". In the other question, we might have asked "Which chairs are yours – the big ones or the small ones?"   

 

Now that you have a basic idea of how the question word "which" is used, listen to the dialog. In this dialog, Jennifer and David are looking out the window of their apartment.

 

David:  I see Mr. Johnson and Mr. Wilson.

 

Jennifer: Which one is Mr. Johnson?

 

David: The tall one is Mr. Johnson. The short one is Mr. Wilson.

 

Jennifer: I see Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Wilson.

 

David: Which one is Mrs. Johnson?

 

Jennifer: The tall one is Mrs. Johnson. The short one is Mrs. Wilson.

 

David: The tall ones are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.

 

Jennifer: The short ones are Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.

 

Now that you understand the usage of the question word "which" and the pronouns "one" and "ones", let us take a look at the sentences in the dialog.

 

After David says "I see Mr. Johnson and Mr. Wilson.", Jennifer asks "Which one is Mr. Johnson?". Notice that the answer options are limited to describing either "Mr. Johnson" or "Mr. Wilson".

 

David cannot choose a third person to describe. Jennifer could have asked, "Which man is Mr. Johnson?" In her question "Which one is Mr. Johnson?" the pronoun "one" refers to "man" or "person".

 

Since David has already referred to "Mr. Johnson" and "Mr. Wilson", Jennifer could have asked "Which is Mr. Johnson?" Notice that she does not need to include either a noun like "person" or a pronoun like "one" because both David and Jennifer already know that the referents are the two men outside their window.

 

After Jennifer says "I see Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Wilson.", David asks "Which one is Mrs. Johnson?". Notice that the answer options are limited to describing either "Mrs. Johnson" or "Mrs. Wilson".

 

Jennifer cannot choose a third person to describe. David could have asked, "Which woman is Mrs. Johnson?" In his question "Which one is Mrs. Johnson?" the pronoun "one" refers to "woman" or "person".  

 

Since Jennifer has already referred to "Mrs. Johnson" and "Mrs. Wilson", David could have asked "Which is Mrs. Johnson?" Notice that he does not need to include either a noun like "person" or a pronoun like "one" because both David and Jennifer already know that the referents are the two women outside their window.

 

When David says "The tall ones are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson", he could say "The tall people are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson." In this case, the pronoun "ones" refers to "people."

 

When Jennifer says "The short ones are Mr. and Mrs. Wilson", she could say "The short people are Mr. and Mrs. Wilson." In this case, the pronoun "ones" refers to "people".

 

Now that you know how the question word "which" and the pronouns "one" and "ones" are used, listen to the dialog again and pay particular attention to the way they are used in each sentence.

 

David:  I see Mr. Johnson and Mr. Wilson.

 

Jennifer: Which one is Mr. Johnson?

 

David: The tall one is Mr. Johnson. The short one is Mr. Wilson.

 

Jennifer: I see Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Wilson.

 

David: Which one is Mrs. Johnson?

 

Jennifer: The tall one is Mrs. Johnson. The short one is Mrs. Wilson.

 

David: The tall ones are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.

 

Jennifer: The short ones are Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.

 

Very good! Your ability to understand English is growing. Now that you understand the question word "which" and the pronouns "one" and "ones", start using them in your conversations in English.