what vs which

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by kia, Jul 10, 2006.

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  1. kia New Member

    italian italy
    The difference between "which" and "what"?
    La differenza fra "which" e "what"?
  2. mimitabby

    mimitabby Senior Member

    usa, english
    which = quale
    what = cosa

    I think in spoken English, there is some blurring of these two words.
    Which dog did you like?
    What dog did you like ?(INCORRECT, but used)
    What is this? (I have no idea - explain to me what this thing is )
    Which is this? (Is this the one you found or is it the one you purchased?)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2016
  3. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    I'll probably forget some things, but here goes:

    Functions of What:

    Interrogative pronoun: what = che/cosa/che cosa
    --What did you buy? = Cos'hai comprato?

    Relative pronoun (in an indirect question?): what = quello che/ciò che
    --I saw what you bought = Ho visto quello che (ciò che) hai comprato.

    In an exclamatory remark: what = che
    --What a beautiful girl! = Che bella ragazza!

    Functions of Which:

    Relative pronoun: which, that = che, cui
    --I saw the book which (that) you read = Ho visto il libro che hai letto.

    Interrogative adjective: which = quale
    --Which book do you like? = Ti piace quale libro?

    NOTE 1: You will often hear, as mimitabby mentioned, Which is this vs. What is this. This is because the word "one" is left out...it should be Which one is this, making which = quale = interrogative adjective.

    NOTE 2: According to my Prego textbook:
    In other words, even though English uses the interrogative adjective what in these examples, and one may expect che in Italian, the word quale is actually used.

    NOTE 3: Quello che (ciò che) is a way of linking English's use of what vs. which. Quello che translates to "that which," so that we have Ho visto quello che hai comprato = I saw what you bought = I saw that (thing) which you bought. The use of "that which" is rare in spoken language but somewhat common in formal writing. The quello/that acts as a demonstrative pronoun, and the che/which acts as the relative pronoun, whose antecedant is quello/that.

    I don't know if I covered the whole gamut or not, but if I think of anything else I'll post again.

  4. Moogey Senior Member

    New Jersey, USA
    USA English
    We often use "what" when in other languages, "which" is more appopriate. For example, one might ask "What languages do you speak?" when you probably should say "Which languages do you speak?" My Italian teacher explained that "which" is appropriate when there's a list, and there's a list of languages!

  5. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Normally we would say quale libro ti piace?

    Brian has already provided an exhaustive explanation.

    Since I think that Kia was mainly asking about "which" and "what" as interrogative pronouns, I'll just add that a useful tip for Italians is to use "which" where "quale/chi di..." is used in Italian:

    Chi di loro? Which of them?

    Quale di quei ragazzi? Which of those boys?
    (although here "quale" can only refer to a single boy, whereas "which" can refer to one or more. Can you say which one of them?)
  6. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    Yes, you can. In my previous post, I said that when you have a case of "Which do you like," or something similar, the word "one" in English is left out, so that it should read "Which one do you like."

    But now thinking about it, I realize that "of them" is also left out! It should read "Which one of them do you like," because obviously there is some sort of choice among things.

    Usually, a single "which" refers only to one thing: If you and I were shopping for a watch, and I asked, Which do you like?, I would probably mean "Which one do you like." But depending on context, which could refer to more than one thing. If this is the case, however, you'll more likely here "Which ones..." And more often than not, "of them" is completely dropped unless you want to be extra specific and say "of the watches," "of the ____s," etc.

    I'd also like to pose another question. The Latin qualis/e, whence the Italian quale is derived, can have the English translation of which/what kind of. (Thinking about it now, I almost always say What kind of, not Which kind of...which obviously breaks my own rules, but it sounds better; I'll have to think about that some more and give a reason.) Anyway, can the Italian quale ever mean what kind of? I've looked at threads, and it seems Italians would rather use che tipo di (which, like in English, supercedes the quale tipo di).

    For example: What kind of restaurant do you want to go to tonight? = A che tipo del ristorante vuoi andare stasera? = A quale ristorante vuoi andare stasera?

    If I translated this last one as, Which restaurant, it'd have a completely different meaning...as if there were a list of choices for restaurants. Maybe quale just lost some of the original qualis meaning.

  7. uinni

    uinni Senior Member

    Italy, Italian
    In fact:
    In quale ristorante vuoi andare stasera? = which/(what, incorrect but used) restaurant do you want to go to tonight?
    Indeed: quale/che tipo di = What kind of

  8. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    From the thread "He asked her":
    Does a rule exist?
  9. TimeHP

    TimeHP Senior Member

    Italian - Italy
    Io uso which quando è sottintesa una scelta tra un gruppo di cose, oggetti, persone, ecc.
    What è più generico.

    Che libro leggi? = What
    Quali libro scegli? = Which

  10. saia Senior Member

    Italian - Italy
  11. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
  12. Birkof Member

    ciaoa tutti,
    non riesco a capire bene quando si usa "what" e quando "which"..qualcuno mi puo' aiutare? Mi spiego..Se volessi dire "quali sono le ragioni piu' importanti", posso dire "what are the more important reasons?" oppure e' meglio "which are the more important reasons?"

    Grazie dell'attenzione
  13. Siberia

    Siberia Senior Member

    UK-Wales - English
    Di solito "which" si utilizza quando c'è una scelta da fare.
    The Halton Hotel is in Greenwich and the Holton is in Pimlico. Which one are you staying at?

    The MOST important
  14. Never Got a Dinner

    Never Got a Dinner Senior Member

    America, English
    Sí, son d'accordo con quella spiegazione.

    "Which" ha il senso di "which one," cioè quale fra un gruppo di cose.

    I would like some ice cream.
    We have three flavors. Which one would you like?
    OR What flavor would you like.
    Ma NON puoi dire What one would you like?

    Allora, c'è un altro uso di "which" del quale devi stare un po' attento.

    Bach is a composer that pleases me very much. Corretto.
    Bach is a composer which pleased me very much. Sbagliato.
    Bach is a great composer -- VIRGOLA -- which is why I love his music. Corretto.

    In generale, "which" dev'essere preceduto da una virgola.

    Lasciando stare that/which e tornando a what/which:

    What are you doing? Corretto.
    Which are you doing? Assolutamente sbagliato.
    -I'm going to see a movie.
    -Which one are you going to see?
    -Which are you going to see?
    -Which movie are you going to see?
    -What are you going to see?

    Tutti quelli sono possibili.

    -What movie are you going to see?

    Un po' colloquiale, quello. Ma non male. Which movie ... What movie ... Ma ricordati che which sempre implica una selezione.

    -What are you doing? Cosa fai?
    -Which job are you doing (of your many jobs)? Quale lavoro stai facendo (da tutti i suoi lavori)?

    -What is that? Cos'è quello?
    -Which one is that? Quale è quello?

    Ti ho chiarificato oppure obfuscato le cose?
  15. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Anch'io mi ero posto lo stesso problema, in questo thread: mi sembra utile il link fornito da Saia...
  16. Birkof Member

    un grosso grazie a tutti per la chiarezza!
  17. shamblesuk

    shamblesuk Senior Member

    England, English
  18. road77 Member

    Hi all!

    Sto traducendo alcune domande relative alla comunicazione d'impresa, che si rivolge a diversi tipi di pubblici e che utilizza diverse tecniche di comunicazione.

    Le domande sono:
    Con quali stakeholders comunicare?
    Quali tecniche di comunicazione utilizzare?

    In entrambi i casi il soggetto è sottinteso ed è l'impresa.
    Il mio obiettivo è essere sintetico al massimo dato che tali domande vanno inserite all'interno di una figura.

    Ecco i miei tentativi:

    What/which stakeholder groups [does the company] communicate with?
    What/which communication techniques [does the company] use?

    They sound not so English, I know...

    Grazie per l'aiuto

  19. fabry2811

    fabry2811 Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    Sono indeciso sui verbi che hai utilizzato, vanno bene ma forse ce ne sono altri più "eleganti".

    In tutti e due i casi metterei which ma ho dei seri dubbi a riguardo.

    Sono curioso di sapere come va a finire!!!
  20. road77 Member

    Grazie fabry...speriamo nell'aiuto di qualche native
  21. MünchnerFax

    MünchnerFax Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    Which si usa quando si deve scegliere all'interno di un insieme ristretto e già noto. Per esempio, se dicessi: "Ci sono le tecniche di comunicazione A, B e C. In questo caso, quali tecniche utilizziamo?", allora il pronome giusto è which, perché la scelta è ristretta e soprattutto hai già elencato le opzioni e vuoi che si scelga una di quelle.

    Se invece, come mi pare di capire sia il caso qui, la domanda è generica, allora il pronome è what.

    Lo stesso vale per gli stakeholders. Li hai elencati e sono due o tre (o anche sette o otto, non è importante il numero, quanto il fatto che sia una quantità limitata)? Allora è which. Altrimenti è what.
  22. road77 Member

    Grazie Munchner...allora è which perchè c'è un elenco finito...ma la domande sono comprensibili se tolgo "does the company"?
  23. MünchnerFax

    MünchnerFax Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    Ah qui passo la palla a qualche madrelingua pio. :)
  24. fabry2811

    fabry2811 Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    Scusa, se lo togli diventa:

    Which stakeholder groups communicate with?

    E non credo sia molto corretto, o sbaglio?
  25. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
  26. Mary13881 Member

    Ma "quale libro ti piace?"
    Non si dice: Which book do you prefer?
    Thank you!!
  27. TimLA

    TimLA Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English - US
    "Which book do you like?"
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