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which...? vs. what...?

Posted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 9:55 am
by azz
Can one say
a. What are some examples of books that are extremely tedious?
b. Which are some examples of books that are extremely tedious?


?

I guess if one is asking a general question then one should use (a). I don't think (b) works in that context.

If the question is being asked about a limited selection of books (Which of these books....) then one should use 'which' but I am not sure (b) works even in this context.

c. Here is a list of fifty books you have read. Tell me which are some examples of books that are extremely tedious?



Is (c) acceptable?
Is it grammatical?
Is it natural?

I think here one should say

d. Here is a list of fifty books you have read. Tell me which are are extremely tedious?

or:
e. Here is a list of fifty books you have read. Tell me which are examples of books that are extremely tedious?


Many thanks.

Re: which...? vs. what...?

Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:29 am
by Shelley
Azz, I searched to see if the What versus Which question had ever been discussed, and couldn't find anything. It's hard to believe this has not been addressed already. Anyway . . .

My take on your examples is:
a. yes, "what" is correct here.
b. no, "which" does not work. (So yes, you're right in thinking it doesn't work in the context.)
c. yes, it is acceptable and, I suppose, grammatical, but not natural -- too many words.
d. yes, one could say this, but I would say "Please" tell me which are (drop the second "are") extremely tedious. No question mark: your sentence is phrased as a command (the imperative, maybe?) not a question.

I'm not one of the experts here, though, Azz -- I just know how I do it. Maybe the pro's will weigh in.