English - Alternative Forms
English - Etymology
From Middle English which, hwic, wilche, hwilch, whilk, hwilc, from Old English hwilc (“which”), from Proto-Germanic *hwilīkaz, derived from *hwaz, equivalent to who + like. Cognates include Scots whilk (“which”), West Frisian hokker (“which”), Dutch welk (“which”), Low German welk (“which”), German welcher (“which”), Danish hvilken (“which”), Swedish vilken (“which”), Norwegian hvilken (“which”), Icelandic hvílíkur (“which”).
English - Pronunciation
English - Determiner
- What, of those mentioned or implied (used interrogatively).
- (interrogative) What one or ones (of those mentioned or implied).
- (relative) The one or ones that.
- (relative) The one or ones mentioned.
- (now dialectal) Used of people (now generally who, whom or that).
English - Pronoun
(relative) Who; whom; what (of those mentioned or implied).
- He walked by a door with a sign, which read: PRIVATE OFFICE. Their first song, which made the charts in 2004, is great. We've met some problems, which are very difficult to handle. He had to leave, which was very difficult. We have to protect the environment in which we live. No art can be properly understood apart from the culture of which it is a part.
- (US usage) Some authorities insist, prescriptively, that relative which should be used only in non-restrictive contexts. For restrictive contexts (e.g., The song that made the charts in 2004 is better than the later ones), they prefer that. Actual usage does not support this "rule". Fowler, who proposed the rule, himself acknowledged that it was "not the practice of most or of the best writers". Even E.B. White, a notorious "which-hunter", wrote this: "the premature expiration of a pig is, I soon discovered, a departure which the community marks solemnly on its calendar." In modern UK usage, The song which made the charts in 2004 is better than the later ones is generally accepted without question.
- When "which" (or the other relative pronouns "who" and "that") is used as the subject of a relative clause, the verb agrees with the antecedent of the pronoun. Thus "The thing which is...", "The things which are...", etc.
- 1611 — King James Version of the Bible, Luke 1:1
English - Noun
An occurrence of the word which.
- 1959, William Van O'Connor, Modern prose, form and style (page 251)
- 1989, Donald Ervin Knuth, Tracy Larrabee, Paul M. Roberts, Mathematical writing (page 90)
Middle English - Alternative Forms
Middle English - Pronoun
1407, The Testimony of William Thorpe, pages 40–41
- And I seide, “Ser, in his tyme maister Ioon Wiclef was holden of ful many men the grettis clerk that thei knewen lyuynge vpon erthe. And therwith he was named, as I gesse worthili, a passing reuli man and an innocent in al his lyuynge. And herfore grete men of kunnynge and other also drowen myche to him, and comownede ofte with him. And thei sauouriden so his loore that thei wroten it bisili and enforsiden hem to rulen hem theraftir… Maister Ion Aston taughte and wroot acordingli and ful bisili, where and whanne and to whom he myghte, and he vsid it himsilf, I gesse, right perfyghtli vnto his lyues eende. Also Filip of Repintoun whilis he was a chanoun of Leycetre, Nycol Herforde, dane Geffrey of Pikeringe, monke of Biland and a maistir dyuynyte, and Ioon Purueye, and manye other whiche weren holden rightwise men and prudent, taughten and wroten bisili this forseide lore of Wiclef, and conformeden hem therto. And with alle these men I was ofte homli and I comownede with hem long tyme and fele, and so bifore alle othir men I chees wilfulli to be enformed bi hem and of hem, and speciali of Wiclef himsilf, as of the moost vertuous and goodlich wise man that I herde of owhere either knew. And herfore of Wicleef speciali and of these men I toke the lore whiche I haue taughte and purpose to lyue aftir, if God wole, to my lyues ende.”
- 1407, The Testimony of William Thorpe, pages 40–41