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The medico went to the nearest village and there in the bazaar he found various kinds of meat and fish. He looked around for some time and found that nothing suited him. His medical knowledge now seemed to warn him which meat or fish was indigestible, which not nutritious, which unseasonable, which would cause what disease, which would upset the stomach and which the bile, till finally he left without buying any meat or fish!

In this paragraph, I wanted to know the usage of "which" and "what".Are they determiner or relative pronouns?

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The online dictionaries classify which and what, in the way they are employed in your examples, written in bold:

His medical knowledge now seemed to warn him which meat or fish was indigestible, which not nutritious, which unseasonable, which would cause what disease,...

as adjectives, but I would say they are determiners because:

determiners cannot be graded unlike adjectives, which can be expressed in different intensities.

For instance, an object may be big, bigger, or biggest. However, it cannot be "which-er" or "which-est", the same as regards "what-er" or "what-est".

However, some of them (which - s), written in bold:

... , which would cause what disease, which would upset the stomach and which the bile, till finally he left without buying any meat or fish!

are relative pronouns.

  • They definitely aren't adjectives. – SovereignSun Apr 26 '17 at 16:58
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Actually the writer varies "which" and "what" to avoid repetition and make the sentence more readable. He could have written:

which would cause which disease,

but this is considered poor style.

Otherwise, the sentence is an example of parallelism, in which, when making lists of things, it's good style to use the same structure for each.

Some days I feel like my brain is "on hold". I can't even figure out what to wear, what to eat, what to watch on television, or even what to say to other people.

  • I also want to know "which" meaning as determiner in these above sentences. – Aung Thu Apr 26 '17 at 16:50
  • I suspect they're relative pronouns, although they might have a more specialized term. – Andrew Apr 26 '17 at 17:34
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They all belong to the category (part of speech) 'determinative' and they are all functioning as 'determiner' or 'fused determiner-head'.

The first "which" is a determiner of "meat or fish". The others are 'fused' determiner heads, meaning that the determiner and head of the noun phrase are combined, or fused, into the single word "which", which we understand to mean "which meat or fish".

"What" is not fused, but a conventional determiner of "disease".

Additionally, in the second and third coordinates, the verb is omitted by a process called 'gapping'. The missing verb is 'understood' as "was".

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Relatives pronouns are related to the subject or object with another clause or part of a sentence, It is used for nouns to express function related to who, which, whose etc. In your paragraph you use too much of pronouns and adjectives, let me show you which would cause what disease, which would upset the stomach and which the bile, till finally, he left without buying any meat or fish! here this star marks words are used as a pronoun.

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    Please note you must disclose your affiliation with any products or websites linked in your answers, if you have any. See Limits for self-promotion in answers. – Em. Dec 5 '18 at 6:41
  • Also, a note to learners: that site is full of grammatical and spelling errors. – Em. Dec 20 '18 at 7:19

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