English "What" "Which" and "What kind of"


This unit covers the interrogatives "what," "which," and "what kind of" and when to use each one.

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What vs. Which
The question words “what” and “which” are similar to one another; however, there are certain times when one is used or preferred over the other. In cases with many choices or options, “what” is the correct one. When there are fewer options, “which” is preferred.

What are you having for dinner?
Which bike is yours?

In the first example, there are many possibilities concerning foods to eat. In the second, however, there is an implied, limited group of bikes being referred to at a particular location. Sometimes, these words are nearly interchangeable:

What flight are you on?
Which flight are you on?

A native speaker would not notice any difference in the above two examples – they are both equally correct.

Which Kind vs. What Kind
Looking at “which kind” and “what kind,” they at first appear interchangeable:

What kind of dog do you have?
Which kind of dog do you have?

The second question would be used less frequently, but both “which kind” (could imply a select subset) and “what kind” (general) are acceptable grammatically speaking.


The following question is rhetorical, which makes is awkward to use anything other than “what kind”:

What kind of person would do that?

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.