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The Interrogative Determiner in English Grammar

Determiners are a closed class of words that provide information such as familiarity, location, quantity, and number about a noun or noun phrase. Determiners differ in form and function from adjectives, which describe attributes of nouns and noun phrases. Like interrogative pronouns, interrogative determiners ask questions. The three interrogative determiners in English grammar are:

  1. what
  2. which
  3. whose (possessive interrogative determiner)

Interrogative determiners are determiners that formulate direct or indirect questions and exclamations. Like other determiners, interrogative determiners perform the grammatical function of determinative.

Using Interrogative Determiners

Interrogative determiners most commonly formulate questions, both direct and indirect. For example, the following direct questions contain interrogative determiners:

  • What toppings do you want on your half of the pizza?
  • Which university are you attending this fall?
  • Whose baby are you watching all night?

The following indirect questions also contain interrogative determiners:

  • You want what toppings on your half of the pizza?
  • You are attending which university this fall?
  • You are watching whose baby all night?

Although most frequently used within interrogative constructions, interrogative determiners also formulate exclamations. For example:

  • You want what toppings on your half of the pizza!
  • You are attending which university this fall!
  • You are watching whose baby all night!

Note that indirect questions and exclamations are identical in grammatical structure.

Interrogative determiners formulate direct or indirect questions and exclamations. The three interrogative determiners in English are what, which, and whose.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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