Interrogative pronouns are used in inquiry, to form special questions. They are:: who, whom why, when, where, whose, what.
The interrogative pronoun who has the category of case: the nominative case is who, the objective case whom. Who refers to human beings:
- Who are you?
- Whom (who) are you waiting for?
- Slipping her hand under his arm, she said: “Who was that?” “He picked up my handkerchief. We talked about pictures.”
Examples of interrogative pronouns
Let’s consider several examples of interrogative pronouns:
- Whom did you help?
- Who is that man?
- When did you see him?
- Why are you laughing?
- Whose car is that?
Use of interrogative pronouns
What when not attributive usually refers to things but it may be applied to people when one inquires about their occupation.
- What do you know about it?
- What is your father?
- “What are you looking for, Tess?” the doctor called. “Hairpins,” she replied…
- “What was he?” “A painter.”
The interrogative pronoun which is used when it comes to a choice: “who of…”, “which of…”:
- Which of you knows the rule?
- Which sentence is correct?
- The boys clasped each other suddenly in an agony of fright. “Which of us does he mean?” gasped Huckleberry.
- Which side of the bed do you like, Mum?
The questions Who is he? What is he? Which is he?differ in their meaning. The first question inquires about the name or parentage of some person. The second question inquires about the occupation of the person spoken about. The third question inquires about some particular person out of a definite group of people.
Functions of interrogative pronouns
In the sentence interrogative pronouns may have different functions — those of subject, predicative, object, and attribute:
- Who, do you think, has been to see you, Dad? She couldn’t wait! Guess (SUBJECT)
- “What’s been happening, then?” he said sharply (SUBJECT)
- “No, who’s he?” “Oh, he’s a Polish Jew.” (PREDICATIVE)
- “What are you, Mr. Mont, if I may ask?” “I, sir? I was going to be a painter.” (PREDICATIVE)
- “What was her father?” “Heron was his name, a Professor, so they tell me.” (PREDICATIVE)
- “He says he’s married,” said Winifred. “Whom to, for goodness’ sake?” (OBJECT)
- “Who do you mean?” I said (OBJECT)
- “What did you see in Clensofantrim?” “Nothing but beauty, darling.” (OBJECT)
- “What sort of a quarrel?” he heard Fleur say (ATTRIBUTE)
- Whose pain can have been like mine? Whose injury is like mine? (ATTRIBUTE)
- Which day is it that Dorloote Mill is to be sold? (ATTRIBUTE)
There is a tendency in Modern English to use who, instead of whom, as an object:
- If it doesn’t matter who anybody marries, then it doesn’t matter who I marry and it doesn’t matter who you marry. Whom, not who.
- Oh, speak English: you’re not on the telephone now