What- Which- How

I. What + noun (What colour … ? / What kind … ? etc.)

  • What colour is your car?
  • What colour are your eyes?
  • What size is this shirt? 
  • What make is your TV set?
  • What time is it?
  • What day is it today?
  • What kind of job do you want? (or What type of job … ? / What sort of job ..?)

What without a noun:

  • What‘s your favourite colour?
  • What do you want to do this evening?

II. Which + noun (things or people):

  • Which train did you catch – the 9.50 or the 10.30?
  • Which doctor did you see – Doctor Ellis, Doctor Gray or Doctor Hill?

We use which without a noun for things, not people:

  • Which is bigger – Canada or Australia?

We use who for people (without a noun):

  • Who is taller – Bill or Gerry? [not ‘Which is taller?’)

III. What or which?

We use which when we are thinking about a small number of possibilities (perhaps 2, 3 or 4):

  • We can go this way or that way. Which way shall we go?
  • There are four umbrellas here. Which is yours?

What is more general:

  • What is the capital of Argentina?
  • What sort of music do you like?

Compare:

  • What colour are his eyes? (not ‘Which colour?’)
    Which colour
    do you prefer, pink or yellow?
  • What is the longest river in the world?
    Which
    is the longest river – the Mississippi, the Amazon or the Nile?

IV How … ?

  • ‘How was the party last night?’    ‘It was great.’
  • ‘How do you usually go to work?’    ‘By bus.’

You can use how + adjective/adverb (how tall / how old / how often etc.):

  • HOW tall are you?’   ‘I’m 1 metre 70.’
  • HOW big is the house?’   ‘Not very big.’
  • HOW old is your mother?’    ‘She’s 45.’
  • HOW far is it from here to the airport?’    ‘Five kilometres.’
  • HOW often do you use your car?’   ‘Every day.’
  • HOW long have they been married?’   ‘Ten years.’
  • HOW much was the meal?’    ‘Twenty pounds.’

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