The word "which" is a pronoun. There are two main uses for this word. The first is as a means for asking a person to make a choice:
- Which one do you want, the red one or the blue one?
- Which store has lower prices, Jewel or Dominick’s?
- Which of the four seasons is your favorite?
- Vanessa isn’t sure about which cough medicine she should buy.
- Rick knows exactly which laptop he wants to get.
- Which of these is the best choice?
- Which way do we go? (This question is often asked when walking or traveling.)
- Which way did he go?
- Do you know which way he went?
The second main reason for using "which" is when referring to an antecedent. An antecdent is a thing that appears before another thing in a sentence or question.)
- That’s the shovel which we used for digging the garden. (The antecedent in this sentence is "shovel.")
- The bakery makes beautiful donuts, many of which sell out before noon. ("Which" refers to the donuts.)
- Kevin has a strong interest in joining the military, which would probably offer him a lot of good experience. (In this sentence, "which" appears at the beginning of a nonrestrictive clause.*)
When expressing uncertainty or confusion, "which is which" is very popular:
- I can’t tell which is which.
- These deserts all look good. Do you know which is which?
- The kids all threw their jackets in a pile, so it’s hard to tell which is which.
*Note: The words "which" and "that" are often used interchangeably for clauses; however, "that" is considered to be acceptable for things and people, whereas "which" is not. Use "which" when referring to things.
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February 23, 2015