Students need to be able to use interrogative pronouns to read and construct questions. But analyzing the function of interrogative pronouns in sentences can be trickier than using them. Can interrogative pronouns be subjects?
The following interrogative pronouns can form the subject of a sentence: who, whose, which, what, whoever, whatever, and whichever. The interrogative pronoun replaces the subject of the sentence without changing the grammatical structure. The sentence becomes a question.
Interrogative pronouns replace nouns or noun phrases in sentences, particularly in questions. They help the speaker or writer ask for information, make requests, and clarify understanding. Let’s see how interrogative pronouns work.
Can Interrogative Pronouns Be Subjects?
Interrogative pronouns are a part of speech that help to create questions and can form the subject of a sentence.
Analyzing the grammatical structure of a sentence requires students of English to understand and know how to use grammar. When dealing with questions, one of the essential parts of speech is the interrogative pronoun.
What Is An Interrogative Pronoun?
An interrogative pronoun is a sub-category of pronoun, a word that replaces a noun or noun phrase (called the antecedent) and refers to the antecedent already mentioned. The antecedent becomes the answer to the question. For example:
- Who is standing at the gate?
- Jake is standing at the gate.
We use interrogative pronouns to ask questions when looking for information about nouns. There are five interrogative pronouns in English:
There are four additional interrogative pronouns, which are used less often. You create these by adding the inflectional ending or suffix -ever to other interrogative pronouns. These are called compound interrogative pronouns. The meaning of the pronoun remains the same; adding -ever emphasizes an emotion, such as surprise or confusion:
- Who + -ever = whoever: Whoever is knocking at the door?
- Whom + -ever = whomever: Whomever did your cousin marry?
- What + -ever = whatever: Whatever is going on here?
- Which + -ever = whichever: Whichever are you going to choose?
You use “who/whoever,” “whom/whomever,” and “whose” when referring to people, and “what/whatever” for inanimate objects or abstract ideas. “Which/whichever” can stand for either humans or things.
What Are The Functions Of Interrogative Pronouns?
Interrogative pronouns function in six ways. These question words can serve in sentences as the:
- Subject complement
- Direct object
- Object complement
- Indirect object
- Prepositional complement
How To Use An Interrogative Pronoun As A Subject
The subject of a sentence is a word, phrase, or clause that undertakes the action of the verb upon the object (known together as the predicate).
As the subject of a sentence, an interrogative pronoun:
- replaces the word, phrase, or clause as the subject
- transforms the sentence into a question
- does not change the sentence’s grammatical structure
- requires the addition of a question mark.
- Sentence: Bobby’s hat is on top of the treehouse.
- Question: What is on top of the treehouse?
Only four of the interrogative pronouns can function as the subject:
Let’s look at using each of these interrogative pronouns as the subject of a sentence.
How To Use “Who” As A Subject
The interrogative pronouns “who” and “whoever” ask for the name or identity of a person who performed an action. These interrogative pronouns can only be used as the subject of a sentence. For example:
- Sentence: Jackson (subject) stole (verb) the soda from the fridge (predicate).
- Question: Who (subject) stole (verb) the soda from the fridge (predicate)?
- Question: Whoever (subject) stole (verb) the soda from the fridge (predicate)?
The interrogative pronouns “who” and “whoever” replace the name “Jackson” as the subject.
If you want to ask about a person who is the object of a sentence, you need to use “whom/whomever.”
How To Use “What” As A Subject
The interrogative pronouns “what” and “whatever” ask for an item or animal’s identity or an abstract idea. You can use these interrogative pronouns as both subjects and objects. For example:
- Sentence: The frog (subject) jumped (verb) over the pond (predicate).
- Question: What (subject) jumped (verb) over the pond (predicate)?
- Question: Whatever (subject) jumped (verb) over the pond (predicate)?
- Sentence: Honey (subject) is (verb) the main ingredient (predicate).
- Question: What (subject) is (verb) the main ingredient (predicate)?
- Question: Whatever (subject) is (verb) the main ingredient (predicate)?
The interrogative pronouns “what” and “whatever” replace the animal “the frog” and “honey” as the subjects.
How To Use “Which” As A Subject
The interrogative pronouns “which” or “whichever” ask for a specific item amongst many. You can use these interrogative pronouns as both subjects and objects. For example:
- Sentence: The red coat (subject) is (verb) Sarah’s(predicate).
- Question: Which (subject) is (verb) Sarah’s (predicate)?
- Question: Whichever (subject) is (verb) Sarah’s (predicate)?
The interrogative pronouns “which” and “whichever” replace the item “the red coat” as the subject.
How To Use “Whose” As A Subject
The interrogative possessive pronoun “whose” asks for the owner of an item or establishes possession. You can use this interrogative pronoun for both subjects and objects. For example:
- Sentence: Zac’s cupcake (subject) is missing (verb/predicate).
- Question: Whose (subject) is missing (verb/predicate)?
The interrogative pronoun “whose” replaces the item “Zac’s cupcake” as the subject.
The Difference Between Interrogative Pronouns And Interrogative Determiners
Interrogative pronouns become interrogative determiners or interrogative adjectives when you use them to ask for information about a known antecedent.
Look at this example of “what” as an interrogative pronoun:
- Which shall we watch?
The question is open-ended, asking whether the group wants to watch a TV show, movie, DVD, documentary, etc. There is more than one possible answer.
In this example,
- Which movie shall we watch?
The question is determining, modifying, or asking for more information about the antecedent “movie.” There is only one answer: the specific name of a movie chosen from those available.
Pronoun Teaching Resources
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Interrogative pronouns are valuable parts of speech that replace nouns in questions to help the speaker or reader find out information. These pronouns (who, whom, whose, what, and which) can form the subject or object of a sentence.