When we ask a question, we are most likely using an interrogative pronoun, which are words like who, whom, whose, which, and what. In this lesson, we will take a look at the functions of the interrogative pronoun.
What Is an Interrogative Pronoun?
What is an interrogative pronoun? When we think of the word ‘interrogative,’ it has the same root as ‘interrogation.
‘ To interrogate is to question. So, we can deduce that an interrogative pronoun is a pronoun that questions. Remember that a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun, like he, she, it, him, and her.
Putting it together, an interrogative pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun and that asks a question. In English, there are just five: who, whom, whose, which, and what.
How does an interrogative pronoun function in a sentence? The interrogative pronoun actually takes the place of the subject or object in a sentence.
Here is an example:What is your name?In this question, the word ‘what’ is an interrogative pronoun, and it serves as the subject of the sentence.Let’s try a sentence for each of the additional four interrogative pronouns:Who left the refrigerator door open? (‘Who’ is the interrogative pronoun.)John gave the roses to whom? (‘Whom’ serves as the object of the sentence, and is the interrogative pronoun.)Whose is broken? (‘Whose’ serves as the subject/interrogative pronoun.)Which came first? (‘Which’ also serves as the subject of the sentence and the interrogative pronoun.)
Who and Whom
The words ‘who’ and ‘whom’ can be commonly misused, and it would be good to point out their separate functions.
While the word ‘who’ is an interrogative pronoun that serves as the subject of the sentence, the word ‘whom’ should only be used as the object of a sentence, whether that is a direct object, indirect object, or object of the preposition. Let’s look at a few examples:Correct: Who is my opponent? (It is clear that the word ‘who’ is the subject.)Incorrect: Whom are my opponents? (Some people mistakenly think of ‘whom’ as the plural of ‘who,’ but that is not the case. They simply take on different roles.)Correct: From whom did Sally get the flowers? (‘Whom’ inversely works as the object of the preposition–Sally got them from ‘whom.
‘)Incorrect: Sally got the flowers from who? (‘Who’ cannot act as the subject of the sentence.)The easiest way to figure out whether to use ‘who’ or ‘whom’ is this: if you can replace the word ‘who’ with the word ‘he,’ that is the right choice. If you can replace the word ‘whom’ with the word ‘him,’ that, too, is the right choice.
Who’s and Whose
It is easy to get the words whose and who’s confused, as well. The word ‘whose’ implies something that belongs to someone, as in the sentence:Whose jacket is that?But the word ‘who’s’ is a contraction of the words ‘who is,’ as in this sentence:Who is the owner of the jacket?
Let’s review. An interrogative pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun and that asks a question. In English, there are just five: who, whom, whose, which, and what.
The interrogative pronoun actually functions by taking the place of the subject or object in a sentence. Some common errors result in the use of ‘who’ vs. ‘whom’ and ‘who’s’ vs. ‘whose.’