Who vs. What: Know the Difference
Who and What Definitions
(interrogative) What person or people; which person or people; asks for the identity of someone; used in a direct or indirect question.
Who is that? (direct question)
I don't know who it is. (indirect question)
Which one or ones of several or many
What college are you attending? You should know what musical that song is from.
(relative) Introduces a relative clause having a human antecedent.
They soon repaired what damage had been done.
With antecedent as subject.
That's the man who works at the newsagent. (defining)
My sister, who works in the accounts department, just got promoted to manager. (non-defining)
How great; how astonishing
What a fool!.
(non-formal) With antecedent as object: whom.
How much; in what respect; how
What does it matter?.
Whoever, he who, they who.
Who insults my mother insults me.
I don't know but what I'll go.
A person under discussion; a question of which person.
Used to express surprise, incredulity, or other strong and sudden excitement.
Who phone just rang?
Chiefly British Used as a tag question, often to solicit agreement.
One; any; one.
As who should say, it were a very dangerous matter if a man in any point should be found wiser than his forefathers were.
(interrogative) Which, especially which of an open-ended set of possibilities.
What colour are you going to use?
What time is it?
What kind of car is that?
A United Nations agency to coordinate international health activities and to help governments improve health services
(relative) Which; the ... that.
I know what colour I am going to use.
That depends on what answer is received.
(relative) Any ... that; all ... that; whatever.
He seems to have lost what sense he had.
What money I earn is soon spent.
Emphasises that something is noteworthy or remarkable in quality or degree, in either a good or bad way; may be used in combination with certain other determiners, especially 'a', less often 'some'.
This shows what beauty there is in nature.
You know what nonsense she talks.
I found out what a liar he is.
Used to form exclamations.
Wow! What a speech.
What some lovely weather we've been having!
What beautiful children you have.
With what passion she sings!
(interrogative) Which thing, event, circumstance, etc.: used in asking for the specification of an identity, quantity, quality, etc.
What is your name?
Ask them what they want.
(fused relative) That which; those that; the thing(s) that.
He knows what he wants.
What is amazing is his boundless energy.
And, what's even worse, I have to work on Sunday too.
(fused relative) Anything that; all that; whatever.
I will do what I can to help you.
What is mine is yours.
That; which; who.
'Ere! There's that bloke what I saw earlier!
(interrogative) In what way; to what extent.
What does it matter?
What do you care?
Used before a prepositional phrase to emphasise that something is taken into consideration as a cause or reason; usually used in combination with 'with' (see what with), and much less commonly with other prepositions.
An expression of surprise or disbelief.
What! That’s amazing!
What do you want? An abrupt, usually unfriendly enquiry as to what a person desires.
What? I'm busy.
Clipping of what do you say? Used as a type of tag question to emphasise a statement and invite agreement, often rhetorically.
It’s a nice day, what?
What did you say? I beg your pardon?
— Could I have some of those aarrrrrr mmmm ...
Indicating a guess or approximation, or a pause to try to recall information.
I must have been, what, about five years old.
Something; thing; stuff.
(countable) The identity of a thing, as an answer to a question of what.
(countable) Something that is addressed by what, as opposed to a person, addressed by who.
As an interrogative pronoun, used in asking questions regarding either persons or things; as, what is this? what did you say? what poem is this? what child is lost?
What see'st thou in the ground?
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
As an exclamatory word: - (a) Used absolutely or independently; - often with a question following.
What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Used adjectively, meaning how remarkable, or how great; as, what folly! what eloquence! what courage!
What a piece of work is man!
O what a riddle of absurdity!
As a relative pronoun
Sometimes prefixed to adjectives in an adverbial sense, as nearly equivalent to how; as, what happy boys!
What partial judges are our love and hate!
Used substantively with the antecedent suppressed, equivalent to that which, or those [persons] who, or those [things] which; - called a compound relative.
With joy beyond what victory bestows.
I'm thinking Captain Lawton will count the noses of what are left before they see their whaleboats.
What followed was in perfect harmony with this beginning.
I know well . . . how little you will be disposed to criticise what comes to you from me.
Whatever; whatsoever; what thing soever; - used indefinitely.
Whether it were the shortness of his foresight, the strength of his will, . . . or what it was.
Used adjectively, equivalent to the . . . which; the sort or kind of . . . which; rarely, the . . . on, or at, which.
See what natures accompany what colors.
To restrain what power either the devil or any earthly enemy hath to work us woe.
We know what master laid thy keel,What workmen wrought thy ribs of steel.
Used adverbially, in part; partly; somewhat; - with a following preposition, especially, with, and commonly with repetition.
What for lust [pleasure] and what for lore.
Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am custom shrunk.
The year before he had so used the matter that what by force, what by policy, he had taken from the Christians above thirty small castles.
What time the morn mysterious visions brings.
Used adverbially in a sense corresponding to the adjectival use; as, he picked what good fruit he saw.
Why? For what purpose? On what account?
What should I tell the answer of the knight.
But what do I stand reckoning upon advantages and gains lost by the misrule and turbulency of the prelates? What do I pick up so thriftily their scatterings and diminishings of the meaner subject?
Something; thing; stuff.
And gave him for to feed,Such homely what as serves the simple lown.
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