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Thread: Which and what

  1. #1
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    Which and what

    Dear native speakers, and can you please explain what's the difference between "which" and "what" in such questions, as, for example:
    "What school do you go to?" or "Which school do you go to?". Which (or what ) variant is correct and why?

  2. #2
    Завсегдатай Ramil's Avatar
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    Разница приблизительно такая:

    - В какую школу ты ходишь? (which)
    - Вот в эту (показывает)
    - А что это за школа? (what)
    - С углублённым изучением математики.
    Send me a PM if you need me.

  3. #3
    Moderator Lampada's Avatar
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    Я всегда думаю: which - который из... , а what - какой.
    "...Важно, чтобы форум оставался местом, объединяющим людей, для которых интересны русский язык и культура. ..." - MasterАdmin (из переписки)



  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ramil
    Разница приблизительно такая:

    - В какую школу ты ходишь? (which)
    - Вот в эту (показывает)
    - А что это за школа? (what)
    - С углублённым изучением математики.
    With "What school did you go to" / "Which school did you go to", there isn't really any difference in meaning. I'd say "Which" is probably more 'correct', but a lot / most people would say "What".

    "which" tends to ask to specify a single option (or multiple options) from a specific list / quantity of others.

    "what" is more general.

    If you knew someone who was buying a car you could generally ask them "what car did you buy?" (out of all the cars available in the world).

    If the person had said "I was torn between buying the blue car and the red car", then the only option would be "which car did you buy", because it's out of a specific small number of choices.

    But in modern colloquial speech the distinction is blurred,
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    Lampada, yep, when it comes just to translations, it's very simple, but when you're trying to use them on practice... i don't know why, but it's kind of problem for me
    Ramil and especially TATY, thank you VERY MUCH, i think i understand it at last

  6. #6
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    There's actually not many situations in which they aren't interchangeable.

    One could, in fact, say, to wit, at least in my dialect, "What car did you drive, the blue or the black one?" just as well as one could say "Which car did you drive, the blue or the black one?"

    The latter sounds a bit more "grammat" in the stuffy proscriptive sense, whereas the former sounds a bit lazily formulated and colloquial.

    "What," however, is required when the options are more than two. For instance "What would you like on your sandwich?" is what they might say to you at a Sub joint. It wouldn't make sense to say "Which would you like on your sandwich?" in front of a full spread of options, because this would imply that the listener has only one choice (or indicate that the speaker wants to make clear that the listener is only allowed one choice). Of course, if the choices in my little scenario were summed up into categories, the speaker could say "Which vegetables/condiments/cheeses would you like on your sandwich?"

    But none of this analysis into the differences between "what" and "which" will prove actionable to you...what you need is to just expose yourself to the language A LOT and you'll find that this distinction is really quite a small hurdle and probably fairly easy to intuit, as opposed, say, to the tenses and articles especially, which is where your energies should be devoted.[/i]
    исправьте мои ошибки :P

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    The other posters are quite correct.

    I will add this: "which" often goes with "one"; "what" NEVER goes with "one".

    "Which one do you want?" correct
    "I know which one I like best." correct
    "What one do you want?" incorrect

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lampada
    Я всегда думаю: which - который из... , а what - какой.
    I do this in reverse when I try to figure out Russian.

  9. #9
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    Trzeci_Wymiar, paulb, thanks for the explanations

    Quote Originally Posted by Trzeci_Wymiar
    what you need is to just expose yourself to the language A LOT and you'll find that this distinction is really quite a small hurdle and probably fairly easy to intuit, as opposed, say, to the tenses and articles especially, which is where your energies should be devoted.[/i]
    Oh, yeah, tenses and even "which" & "what" are piece a cake comparing with articles Articles are just... inconceivable

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