Using Interrogative Pronouns to Question Things

Aligned to Common Core Standards CCSS.L.4.1a, CCSS.L.5.1, and CCSS.L.6.1a.

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Like basic pronouns, interrogative pronouns still name something. However, in English, interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions, they represent the thing we're unsure of or what we don't know, basically the thing we're asking a question about.

An interrogative pronoun is just one type of pronoun we can use in English. 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 upper elementary and middle school learners, Grades 4-6+, and ESL students.

Interrogative Pronoun Examples

How to Identify Interrogative Pronoun Examples

There are a few pronouns in English that service the interrogative function; interrogative might seem like a long word, but it basically means to ask a question.

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.

5 Interrogative Pronouns in English

  1. What
  2. Which
  3. Whose
  4. Whom
  5. Who

You'll notice from the table below that whose, which is a possessive pronoun, can also be an interrogative pronoun.

Type Subject Object Examples
Person who whom Who took the books?To whom is he talking?
Thing what what What would you like for dinner?
Person/thing which which Which of them is younger?Which dress do you prefer?
Person(possessive) whose whose Whose is this?Whose keys did you find?

Interrogative Pronoun Examples

Let’s take each one in a quick example to show how you might see it in a sentence.

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

As you might have guessed 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.

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

You'll notice that whom is the correct form when the pronoun is the object of the verb, as in "Whom did you see?" ("I saw Sally") In informal, spoken English, we don't really use whom. Instead, most native speakers would say, "Who did you see?"

Interrogative Pronoun Flashcards

See if you can complete the following sentences using the correct interrogative pronoun.

Pronouns vs. 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

  1. Which bag do you like the best?

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.

Interrogative Pronouns vs. 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. Remember that interrogative pronoun answers will be in the noun form.

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask about people, nouns, and places, whereas interrogative adverbs are used to ask about time, places, reasons, and manner.

Examples of Interrogative Pronouns

  1. Who delivered this letter? Kate delivered the letter.
  2. To whom did you ship that package? I shipped the package to Devon.
  3. What came first? The chicken or the egg? I think the egg came first.
  4. Who told you? Leah told me.
  5. Which answer is correct? Question seven is correct.

Examples of Interrogative Adverbs

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.

  1. When do you go abroad to study? I will go abroad to study next week.
  2. When is your birthday? My birthday is in August.
  3. How much is it? It's twenty dollars.
  4. Where did you buy it? I bought it at Target.
  5. How old are you? I'm thirty years old.


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. Personal, intensive, relative, and reflexive are all a few of the other categories of pronouns that students will encounter.