"WHAT" or "WHICH"? Learn how to choose!



How do you know when to use “what” or “which”? It’s easy! In this English grammar lesson, you’ll learn which of these question words is more specific and limited and which is more general and wide. Watch this lesson now — learn and remember forever! Once you learn the grammatical rule, it will be so easy for you that I think you can all get 10/10 on the quiz. What more could you ask for?

TAKE THE QUIZ: https://www.engvid.com/what-or-which/

TRANSCRIPT

Hi. I’m Rebecca from engVid. In the next few minutes you will learn how to ask better questions in English. Specifically, you’ll learn when to use the question word “what” and when to use the question word “which”. Now, is there a difference? Yes, usually there is, and it’s a very easy difference to understand once I explain it to you. But maybe you already know the difference, maybe you already know when to use “what” or “which”. Let’s find out.

So, do we say: “What colour do you like?” or should we say: “Which colour do you like?” Think about that for a minute, decide something. I’ll tell you in a second. And here, do we say: “What colour do you prefer – red or blue?” or do we say: “Which colour do you prefer – red or blue?” Think about that. Got your answer? Okay, so let me tell you what we would usually say. Here we would usually say: “What colour do you like?” Why? Because we’re asking: “Out of all the colours in the world, what colour do you like?” And here, we would usually say: “Which”, okay? “Which colour do you prefer – red or blue?” Why? Because here we have a specific choice. All right? So let me summarize what the difference is. Okay? So, when we use “What”, we use “What” to talk about things that are very broad or very general. So here, we used it to talk about general questions or very wide, broad questions. Okay? Where the number of options, the number of possibilities are unknown or very large. Okay? “Which” is much different, it’s much more specific. Okay? So, we use “Which” when we have limited options, not wide. We use it when we have much more limited options. For example, here we said: “Red or blue?” It doesn’t have to be only two. It could be three, four, it could be 10, but it’s limited and not unlimited. That’s the difference. “What” is used when we’re asking about something general, and “Which” is used when we’re asking about something specific. Now, just to explain, in this one, for example, I said that the probable answer is: “What colour do you like?” But if I showed you a card which had four colours, and now it’s limited, right? So then I could ask you: “Which colour do you like?” because it’s out of these four, so it becomes limited and not: What colour out of all the colours in the world? Okay? So, let’s look at a few more examples so you can understand exactly how this works.

All right, so let’s look at some examples in a social context, in an academic context, and in a business context. Okay? So, for example, we could ask someone: “What do you want to do today?” Very general question. Out of all the things we could possibly do in this city, what do you want to do? Very broad. Right? Or: “Which movie do you want to see – Star Wars or Batman?” Now the choice is much more limited. Right? It’s more specific, and that’s why we used “Which”. Do you see the difference between the broad and the narrow, between the general and the specific? All right, academically we could ask someone: “What would you like to learn?” Okay? Out of all the subjects in the world, what would you like to learn? So very general, very broad. Or: “Which class do you prefer – music or art?” Now, of course, again our choice is very limited between two. Again, the choice might be between more. All right? But here it’s two. In a business context we might ask: “What are our options?” Okay? Out of all the different things we could do, what are our options? This is a very common question people ask in business situations, in business meetings, negotiations, and things like that. Right? Or: “Which conference are you attending, the one in New York or in London?” Again, a much more limited choice, and therefore we used “Which”. All right? So, are you ready to try some on your own? Let’s do that.

Okay, number one, let’s pretend that you’re on a date and you want to get to know the other person so you ask them: “_______ kind of music do you like?” What should we say: “What” or “Which”? It’s a very general question, right? So we say: “What”, “What kind of music do you like?” Okay? Because there are all kinds of music; we didn’t limit the options.

All right, the next one, let’s say you’re thinking about learning how to play an instrument, so you go to a music store and you ask the salesperson: “_______ instrument is easier to learn – the guitar or the piano?” What do we say there? What should we say? I think we should say: “Which”. Right? “Which instrument is easier to learn – the guitar or the piano?”

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