Questioning Things Using Interrogative Pronouns

An interrogative pronoun is just one type of pronoun category that we can use in English. As a way to introduce students to the concept, this guide will provide interrogative pronoun examples in basic sentence structures. We will break down the examples we choose to show students why a particular pronoun is interrogative, and we will further describe its function within the sentence. Our guide can serve as a framework that assists both high school and middle school students in this subject area. Because of the examples we will use, it may be helpful to English language learners in both age groups.

By this point, most students will understand the uses for basic pronouns that fall under the general category. Like those pronouns, interrogative ones will still name something. However, in English, we use them to introduce a question to the reader or listener. On a related note, we put examples of interrogative pronouns in sentences as a way to find out particular information that we might wish to know. The pronoun itself sets up this question for us.

Interrogative Pronoun Examples

How To Identify Interrogative Pronoun Examples

There are a few pronouns in English that service the interrogative function. Before we move on, students should know that interrogative pronouns need to be part of the question the author of the sentence is asking. If there is any pronoun present that is not a part of the question, we cannot classify it as interrogative. This is one easy way for students of all age groups to figure out how to check sentences to see if they are interrogative in nature.

English has five typical interrogative pronouns: what, which, whose, whom, and who all make up examples of interrogative pronouns that any reader or listener might encounter regularly in writing or speech. Let’s take each one in a quick example to show how you might see it in a sentence.

  • Who took the jam from the cupboard?
  • To whom did he give his fountain pen?
  • Which one of these is the correct one?
  • Whose hat and coat are hanging on the rack?
  • What kind of text are you reading?

As some students might guess already, pronouns in the interrogative act as stand-ins for regular pronouns. We can see this clearly if we change the examples of interrogative pronouns back to regular ones.

  • Sally took the jam from the cupboard.
  • He gave his fountain pen to Terrance.
  • The fourth answer is the correct one.
  • Imelda’s hat and coat are hanging on the rack.
  • I am reading a journal.

Using Interrogative Pronouns in English

Differences Between Pronouns and Determiners

Understanding how to use pronouns in the interrogative starts with some understanding of how they differ from different types of interrogatives within the English language. In the previous session, we showed how pronouns like these can replace standard ones. If students look at the last part of the section, they will see that the guide has changed the examples to general pronouns. Sally, Terrence, and the journal are just a few examples of how these pronouns function. However, the interrogative can also function as a determiner. When it takes on this job, the pronoun cannot stand alone. Rather, it depends on the noun that it helps to describe.

For example, we might write something like Which bag do you like the best? in this sentence, which moves from a standard example of an interrogative pronoun to a determiner or adjective. Students should be able to see that the word only makes sense if we include the noun bag here. The pronoun modifies bag by asking the reader or listener which one is their favorite. We can alter this sentence to omit the noun itself. If we do, the structure still makes sense grammatically. Although it is a valid sentence, the pronoun is no longer a determiner.

Differences Between Pronouns and Interrogative Adverbs

Further, interrogative pronoun examples also differ from another structure called interrogative adverbs. We will go through a couple of simple examples here in order to illustrate these differences. If students are having difficulties with remembering which kinds of interrogatives the pronouns are, the instructor can remind them that interrogative pronoun answers will be in the noun form.

  • Who delivered this letter? Kate delivered the letter.
  • To whom did you ship that package? I shipped the package to Devon.

Conversely, interrogative adverbs include when, where, how, and why. When you answer an adverb that is in the interrogative, you will do so with an adverbial phrase or word. Additionally, this adverbial that you use will tie itself to a particular action.

When do you go abroad to study? I will go abroad to study next week. In this example, next week acts as an adverbial phrase that connects to the action of going. The speaker will go abroad on a particular day. Students may need some time and additional exercises to show the contrast between an interrogative pronoun and the other kinds of interrogatives we touch on here. However, they should only need to ask one or two basic questions during this process. Recognizing examples of interrogative pronoun use in writing or speaking will become more natural for them over time.


Conclusion

The interrogative pronoun serves an important function in English. With pronouns in the interrogative, we have an easy way to get answers about noun-based parts of speech. The way in which we do this will follow a clear pattern that matches the pronoun list from which we can choose. However, it is not the only pronoun students will learn about over the course of their studies. The personal, intensive, relative, and reflexive are all a few of the other categories of pronouns that students will encounter.

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