Amber, Igor, and Miss Hamrick had lots of questions they wanted to ask, so they convened the Grammar Committee and devised ways to interrogate members of the tribe. First, they decided to form questions by including an auxiliary verb and then putting the auxiliary before the subject. Voila!
Are you going to the party? Will he visit your brother? Does Evan want a birthday present?
Pretty clever, our cave-dwelling Grammar Committee. Then they decided to borrow some of the relative pronouns to use for question-asking: who, whom, whose, and which. (The word that just didn’t work.) To this list they added the word what and came up with a list of interrogative pronouns:
Interrogative Pronouns, A List
Memorize the interrogative pronouns:
|who||Who’s on first?|
|whom||Whom should we call?|
|whose||Whose turn is it?|
|which||Which runner won the race?|
|what||What time is it?|
Sensing that other shades of meanings might show up in questions posed by astute questioners, the committee then borrowed some adverbs: why, where, when, and how.
Adverbs for Asking Questions
Adverbs help us ask various questions:
|why||Why did you retire so early?|
|where||Where did Jim get his car?|
|when||When will this nightmare ever end?|
|how||How will this nightmare ever end?|
The difference between relative pronouns and adverbs acting as interrogatives lies in the function they serve in the sentence. The pronoun will serve as a subject (who) or object (whom) or show possession (whose), as pronouns are wont to do. The adverb, not surprisingly, will act as an adverb. Let’s see these different functions:
Pronouns and Adverbs, Grammatical Function
Note the grammatical functions served by pronouns and adverbs in the these questions:
|Pronoun or Adverb||Grammatical Function Served|
|Who came to the party?||Who acts as the subject of the verb came.|
|Whom should we call?||Whom acts as the object of the verb call.|
|Whose position did he fill?||Whose acts as the possessor of the noun position.|
|Where did Jim get his car?||Where is an adverb modifying the verb get.|
Fred asked, “Where did Jim get his car?”
Fred asked where Jim got his car.