0

Let's consider a sentence:

Take whichever you want.

Does that mean:

  1. Take whichever one you want.

or

  1. Take whichever ones you want.

I think the sentence is ambiguous and could be used instead of both (1) and (2), which are both unambiguous. I think context would clarify the meaning of the sentence in question.

3
  • 2
    I think I would understand it to mean 'whichever one', unless it was obvious from the circumstances that it was OK to take several items. Sep 19, 2021 at 12:56
  • 1
    1. means choose one out of many; 2. means choose more than one out of many. There is no ambiguity in either.
    – Lambie
    Sep 20, 2021 at 14:07
  • Thank you all, especially Kate, whose replies are always very helpful. 1 and 2 are not ambiguous, Lambie, but I think (a) is. Kate and Jontia seem to be saying that and actually they are not contradiction you. The question is about (a), not 1 and 2.
    – azz
    Sep 21, 2021 at 11:58

2 Answers 2

1

It's ambiguous because you have not specified if the selection should be singular.

Webster and others define which;

what one or ones of a group
what particular one or ones

In the examples they make clear you use the subject to clarify the one or ones in context.

which tie should I wear
kept a record of which employees took their vacations in July

1

It is only ambiguous in the same way that "It is a cat" is ambiguous (because you haven't specified the colour of the cat). This kind of ambiguity is not a problem.

But normally the phrase would be "whichever one" or "whichever ones". Lacking the pronoun, the default assumption would probably be singular, however in any conversational situation it would be correct to ask for clarification:

Take whichever you want.

Can I take two?

No, we won't have enough for everyone then.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .