How to Teach Interrogative Pronouns (With Examples)

Learning how to teach interrogative pronouns is crucial for any English teacher who wants to enhance their students’ grammatical accuracy and questioning skills.

These essential grammatical elements, which are used to formulate questions about people, places, objects, and ideas, are key to constructing clear and effective queries, thereby improving communication.

Educators can effectively demonstrate the functions and significance of interrogative pronouns through clear explanations, relevant examples, and engaging classroom activities.

A thorough understanding of how and when to use interrogative pronouns enables students to form more precise questions and enhances their overall communication skills in English.

View all of our  Pronoun Worksheets

What are Interrogative Pronouns?

Interrogative pronouns are the key players when you need to ask questions. The main ones in English are what, which, who, whom, and whose.

Usually, these pronouns lead off a question, but they’re versatile enough to appear anywhere in the sentence, depending on how you phrase it. You can even use more than one in a question if you need more detailed answers.

Like other types of pronouns, interrogative pronouns typically refer back to something else in the conversation, known as the antecedent. This antecedent is essentially the target of the question, the thing you’re asking about.

Refer to the table below for better clarity:

Pronouns What does it ask about? Sample Questions Answer
Which It asks about an animal or thing from a limited number of options. Which do you prefer, coffee or tea? Coffee is my preferred choice.
What It asks about an animal or thing from a large or unspecified number of options. What is the most popular sport in the world?
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
Who It asks about a person who is the sentence’s subject (person performing an action). Who won the marathon last year?
Emily Richards won the marathon last year.
Whom It asks about a person who is the object of the sentence (person acted upon). To whom did you lend your book? I lent my book to Marcus.
Whose It asks about the owner of something. Whose bike is parked outside? That bike belongs to Logan.

Teaching Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are crucial for both direct and indirect questions:

  • Direct Questions: These are straightforward queries that conclude with a question mark. For example, “What is your favorite movie?”
  • Indirect Questions: These do not end with a question mark. Instead, they imply a question, relay a question from someone else, or express uncertainty about the answer to a question.

Here are some examples of Interrogative Pronouns in Indirect Questions:

how to teach interrogative pronouns

Even when an indirect question subtly seeks information, it should conclude with a period rather than a question mark, following most writing guidelines:

how to teach interrogative pronouns

Important note:
An indirect question can also be part of a direct question, ending with a question mark. For instance, in the direct question “Can you tell me how this works?” the embedded indirect question “How does this work?” is what the speaker is actually seeking an answer to, but it is phrased indirectly.

Who and Whom

Understanding the distinction between “who” and “whom” is essential in academic writing, even though “whom” may not be frequently used in casual conversation.

  • Who is used as a subject pronoun, referring to the person or people performing an action.
  • Whom is used as an object pronoun, referring to the person or people being acted upon.

Here are some examples:

how to teach interrogative pronouns

 ‘Who’ and ‘Whom’ usage tips:

A handy way to determine which pronoun to use is to think about how you might answer the question with a personal pronoun. If the answer uses “he,” “she,” or “they,” then “who” is appropriate. If the answer uses “him,” “her,” or “them,” then “whom” is correct.

For instance, the answer to the question “Whom did you call?” might be “I called him.”

What and Which

The interrogative pronouns “what” and “which” serve similar purposes but are distinguished by the scope of their inquiries.

  • What is utilized when the range of potential answers is broad and unspecified.
  • Which is chosen for questions that have a limited set of possible answers, whether these are explicitly provided or implied.

Here are some examples:

Usage of Compound Interrogative Pronouns

You can intensify the interrogative pronouns by adding “-ever,” resulting in the compound forms: whatever, whichever, whoever, whomever, and the less common whosever.

These pronouns add a layer of emphasis or surprise to the question, often conveying that the query is either unexpectedly complex or rhetorically facetious. Typically, they aren’t used in formal academic writing due to their conversational tone.

Here are some examples:

Interrogative Adverbs and Determiners

Besides interrogative pronouns, other words are used to ask questions that fall into different grammatical categories. These include:

  • Interrogative Adverbs: when, where, why, and how
  • Interrogative Determiners: what, which, and whose

In cases involving what, which, and whose, their classification as pronouns or determiners depends on their usage in a sentence. They function as pronouns when they stand alone and replace nouns. When they modify nouns directly, they are used as determiners.

Here are some examples:

how to teach interrogative pronouns

Interrogative Pronouns as Relative Pronouns

While all interrogative pronouns can serve as relative pronouns, their functions differ significantly. Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses, which are used to provide additional details about a noun or noun phrase mentioned previously in the sentence.

Here are some examples:

how to teach interrogative pronouns

Exercises for teaching Interrogative Pronouns

Exercise 1: Fill in the blanks

Instructions: Fill in the Blanks with the Correct Interrogative Pronoun (who, whom, whose, what, which):
1. ________ made this beautiful painting?
2. To ________ should I address this letter?
3. ________ car is parked in the disabled spot without a permit?
4. ________ of these books do you think is better for the project?
5. ________ were you talking to just now?
6. From ________ did you receive this information?
7. ________ recipe should I use for the dinner party?
8. ________ are you planning to invite to the meeting?
9. ________ jacket is this on the back of the chair?
10. ________ did he say was coming to the event?
Answer key (For teachers)
1. Who made this beautiful painting?
2. To whom should I address this letter?
3. Whose car is parked in the disabled spot without a permit?
4. Which of these books do you think is better for the project?
5. Who were you talking to just now?
6. From whom did you receive this information?
7. Which recipe should I use for the dinner party?
8. Whom are you planning to invite to the meeting?
9. Whose jacket is this on the back of the chair?
10. Who did he say was coming to the event?

Exercise 2: Matching type

Instructions: Match the sentences with the correct interrogative pronoun from the list. Write the letter of the matching pronoun next to the sentence number.
Interrogative Pronouns: A. Who B. Whom C. Whose D. What E. Which
Sentences:
1. _______ did you lend your book to at the library?
2. _______ of these destinations is best for a winter vacation?
3. _______ is responsible for completing this report by Friday?
4. _______ ideas do you have for our new marketing campaign?
5 _______ phone keeps ringing in the meeting?
6. _______ are you going to choose for the team captain?
7. _______ should I contact for help with the server?
8. _______ painting won the art competition last year?
9. _______ do you think will win the game tonight?
10. _______ hat is that on the table?
Answer key (For teachers)
1. B. Whom
2. E. Which
3. A. Who
4. D. What
5. C. Whose
6. A. Who
7. B. Whom
8. D. What
9. A. Who
10. C. Whose

Final Thoughts on How to Teach Interrogative Pronouns to Your Students

Learning how to teach interrogative pronouns effectively requires clear explanations, relevant examples, and engaging activities that help reinforce these concepts. By integrating real-life questions and interactive exercises into lessons, educators can aid students in understanding the use of interrogative pronouns, which are essential for forming questions and gathering information.

Mastering interrogative pronouns improves students’ grammatical accuracy and questioning skills. Ultimately, a thorough understanding of interrogative pronouns is essential for students to formulate precise and meaningful questions, enhancing their confidence and ability to engage with the complexities of the English language.

Embracing platforms like EnglishLearningByPro, which offers readily available and adaptable materials, allows teachers to personalize their teaching strategies according to each student’s unique needs. The ultimate goal is to empower students to easily master the use of verbs, enhancing their communication skills in the English language.

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John Bart
Author: John Bart

I am the co-owner of englishlearningbypro.com, a community built specifically for English teachers around the world trying to make a living teaching English. I have lived in Brazil for four years and had previously taught private English classes for three years. I am passionate about helping others, and making English teaching and learning easier.

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