Whose dictionaries these are?


Whose dictionaries are these?


Whose these dictionaries are?

I'm so confused

  • 1
    Consider the statement He told me something, then replace something with a longer phrase having the same syntactic role: He told me whose these books are (or more naturally, ...whose books these are). Note that the verb in that extended element (are) comes after the relevant noun (these). That's the same as a straightforward subject/verb sequence such as These [books] are good. To form a question in English, we invert that sequence: Are these [books] good? Same with your example: Whose dictionaries are these? Jan 29, 2019 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


We use whose to ask a question about possession.

The position of the subject is the usual one in the interrogative form. It comes after the first verb.

Affirmative: These are our dictionaries.

these - subject / are - verb / our dictionaries - complement

Question 1: Are these our dictionaries?

Question 2: Whose dictionaries are these?


1 Whose dictionaries these are?
2 Whose dictionaries are these?
3 Whose these dictionaries are?

1 and 3 are unsound. You need to think about what "these" refers to. It's a demonstrative pronoun in 2.

In 3, you are using "these" as a demonstrative adjective, meaning that 3 looks like "Whose + adjective + noun + verb", which is the affirmative statement form, but it's a question!

Notice that you can change 2 as follows: Whose are these dictionaries? (Whose + verb + adjective + noun), which is the question form, so OK.

In 1, the word "these" is not an adjective (it isn't followed by a noun), so it must be a pronoun. So 1 looks like: "Whose + noun + pronoun + verb". The pronoun refers to a noun which you have already mentioned ("dictionaries"), so it shouldn't be there (pronouns stand in for nouns that you don't mention). Even if we deleted the word "dictionaries" from the sentence, we would be left with "Whose + pronoun + verb", which is in the affirmative form, so not a question!

If both you and the interlocutor know that "these" refers to "dictionaries", then you can just say:

"Whose are these?"

Which is "Whose + verb + pronoun" which is the question form.

The only options available really are:

A Whose are these? B Whose dictionaries are these? C Whose are these dictionaries?

Whatever happens, you must have a subject-verb inversion ("are these") I hope this clears up your confusions.

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