Interrogative Adjectives: Definition & Examples

The different ways in which question words are used can be confusing. In this lesson we'll focus on what, which, and whose, which can act as interrogative adjectives.

We'll focus on their definition with examples to illustrate clearly how and when to use them.

What are Interrogative Adjectives?

Interrogative adjectives are question words that modify (or describe) nouns or pronouns. They help us ask questions about which or what specific things or people we're talking about.

You can spot that they are interrogative adjectives as they come directly before a noun or pronoun. The answer to the question will also be a noun.

Interrogative Adjectives

  • what
  • which
  • whose
  • What drink are you going to have? (Coke = noun)
  • Which teacher do you prefer? (John = noun)
  • Whose jacket as been stolen? (Susan's = noun)

The Difference between "What" and "Which"

It's important here to address the difference between the interrogative adjectives 'what' and 'which', as while both are used to ask questions, they are used differently based on context:

  • What is used when the range of options is unknown or unlimited.
  • Which is used when there is a specific, known range of options.

Examples of 'What'

  • What book are you reading? (Any book in the world)
  • What color do you prefer? (Any colour)
  • What dress should I wear? (Any dress)

Examples of 'Which'

  • Which book are you reading: 'The Great Gatsby' or '1984'? (Specific choices)
  • Which color do you prefer: red or blue? (Specific options)
  • Which dress should I wear: the long one or the short one? (Specific options)

Placement of Interrogative Adjectives

When we use interrogative adjectives, they are often at the start of a sentence as we are asking a direct question.

Interrogative Adjectives in Direct Questions

  • What movie are we watching tonight?
  • What time is the meeting?
  • What kind of music do you like?

  • Which road leads to the city center?
  • Which jacket belongs to you?
  • Which dessert would you like: cake or pie?

  • Whose keys are these on the table?
  • Whose book did you borrow?
  • Whose idea was it to start this project?

Interrogative adjectives can also start indirect questions, which are questions embedded inside another question, a statement, or a command. 

Interrogative Adjectives in Indirect Questions

  • Can you tell me what time the event starts?
  • I wonder what film they are watching.
  • Do you know what kind of drinks they serve here?

  • Can you tell me which road leads to the city center?
  • I wonder which coat belongs to you.
  • Do you know which dessert she ordered?

  • Can you tell me whose keys these are?
  • I wonder whose phone this is.
  • Do you know whose plan it was?

Difference Between Other Interrogatives

Interrogative Adjectives vs Interrogative Pronouns

It's easy to confuse interrogative adjectives with interrogative pronouns.  While the former describe a noun, the latter replace a noun in a question.

Take a look at how these questions differ according to whether they are adjectives or pronouns.

Interrogative Adjectives:

  • What book are you reading?
    (Modifies the noun “book”)
  • Which car is yours?
    (Modifies the noun “car”)
  • Whose pen is this?
    (Modifies the noun “pen”)

Interrogative Pronouns:

  • What are you reading?
    (Replaces the noun)
  • Which is yours?
    (Replaces the noun)
  • Whose is this?
    (Replaces the noun)

Interrogatives Adjectives vs Interrogative Adverbs

Interrogative adverbs are different to interrogative adjectives as they use the question words:

  • why
  • where
  • when
  • how

And rather than modifying nouns, they modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. The answer to these questions will be an adverb, an adverbial phrase, or an adverbial clause.

Examples of Interrogative Adverbs

  • When will you arrive?
    At about 7pm
  • Why are you late?
    Because my car wouldn't start

  • How often do you play tennis?
    Every day

Remember, practice makes perfect, so try to incorporate these into your everyday questions. Happy learning! 🌟

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