Lets see this sentence:

My mom told me I shouldn't go there, I think I should do what my mom told me.

In this case we are using the word what because my mom told me only one thing about the topic we are talking about. (This is the same as we do in my native language.)

But should I use which when I am referring only one thing from a collection?

But when I am typing something which is not a predefined question then Cortana doesn't even try to answer it

Here I have a lot of possibility to type what I want, but I typed one particular sentence. Is this grammatically right or in English we always refer with the word what?

In my language if we would use the word what then the sentence would mean that I can type only one not predefined question (because only one exist) and Cortana doesn't want to answer that one for me. With the word which it would mean that there are more than one not predefined question, and I typed one of them.

1 Answer 1


The distinction in English is different than in your language.

In Standard English, the sort of English you use in writing, what is not used to head "bound" relative clauses: relative clauses which are attached to a preceding noun phrase or clause in order to define it more narrowly.

okThe sentence which I typed . . . but not
The sentence what I typed . . . this does occur in some dialects, but is not acceptable in Standard English

But what is used in "free" (or "fused") relative clauses: relative clauses which act as noun phrases, naming a subject or object:

What I typed was a sentence, not an entire paragraph.

Which is used in this sort of construction only to speak of a selection from a list of alternatives:

There were three possible sentences; which I typed depended on my instructions.

  • In your last example I agree, but in the OP example using which I would use that, because there is no multiple choice.
    – user3169
    Aug 5, 2015 at 22:30
  • @user3169 Either is acceptable; I personally never use that as a relative unless euphony demands it. Aug 5, 2015 at 22:47

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