1. [determiner] Whatever you say is fine with me.
  2. [pronoun] I'll do whatever I can.

It seems like the two ‘whatever’s are doing the same function as pronouns. Why does the Wiktionary put the first one into determiner category?


Wiktionary has two entries under Determiner:

  1. No matter which; for any
    Whatever choice you make, there will be consequences.
  2. (relative) Anything that.
    Whatever you say is fine with me.

The first of these undoubtedly stands in an adjectival or determinative relation to choice, which is the head of its "free relative" clause. "Relative determiner" appears to be a common term for words of this class.

But I agree with you that the second, the one you cite, acts as a pronoun, indistinguishable from the use in the citation under Pronoun.

Why does Wiktionary call it a determiner?
Wiktionary is crowd-composed, and it looks to me like somebody confused two different uses of the word which both head free relative clauses. The "talk" at that entry indicates that there was some shuffling around involving the Pronoun entry.

The confusion may also be due in part to the fact that what to call the wh- words which appear in this position is up in the air. McCawley, for instance, insists that they are "interrogatives"!

  • Should not whatever be used before a noun, to be a determiner? In whatever you say, it is followed by a personal pronoun. – kiamlaluno Aug 7 '13 at 12:16
  • @kiamlaluno I agree with OP that in that phrase whateveris NOT a determiner but a pronoun. But the you there is not related; you is the Subject of say, whatever is the Direct Object of say. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 7 '13 at 13:11
  • That is how a determiner is used, though. I have never seen a you, the you or every you being used in a sentence. – kiamlaluno Aug 7 '13 at 13:16
  • @kiamlaluno It is NOT a determiner there, but a pronoun. YOUsubject SAYverb WHATEVERdirectobject, inverted as a relative clause. It IS a determiner in Whatever choice you make. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 7 '13 at 13:35
  • It's what I am saying: In "Whatever choice you make." whatever is followed by a noun (and it is a determiner), but in "Whatever you say." or "You say whatever." whatever is not followed by a noun. – kiamlaluno Aug 7 '13 at 13:41

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