Suppose I am a book shop keeper and someone comes to my shop and he's looking here and there in my shop. Should I ask him:

What book are you looking for?


Which book are you looking for?

  • Possible duplicate: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/37325/which-vs-what-usage. Related from other site: english.stackexchange.com/q/3413/91730
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 16:05
  • Could you possibly improve your question, please? bookshop owner, not keeper. Clue: in English: to look for. What book are you looking for?
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 16:18
  • @Lambie - you never heard of a shopkeeper? "bookshop keeper" gets 29000 hits on google. It may not be perfectly idiomatic but it's good enough for me.
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 16:31
  • @AndyT Of course, a shopkeeper and a bookshop owner, but not a bookshop keeper. It just ain't kosher.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 16:33
  • Both "what" and "which" are fine, which you use is entirely up to you. in this context there is no difference in meaning.
    – Andrew
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


To some extent this is entirely personal preference. As J.R. mentions in his comment, you may be more likely to use "what" if the customer isn't sure what kind of book is wanted, and "which" if the customer has some kind of more specific list.

However, many native speakers will use these interchangeably, without really thinking about which/what would be more appropriate. The meaning is almost exactly the same either way, at least in the given context.

As a side note: I agree with Lambie that "book shop keeper" sounds a little odd to this American. It might be more of a British English expression. I would be more inclined to say "the owner/manager of a bookshop"

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