Which it is, which is it

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Senior Member
Español - México
I know —I think that I know— that, in an indirect interrogative clause, the verb goes after its subject, as in: I don't know where he has been; Tell me what you want to eat for dinner. But, in an exam, I marked —erroneously— the next sentence —and a few ones more, jah...— as incorrect:

I. We know which is his favorite kind of candy.

According to my teacher —and I don't know why, hence this thread—, it is correct, the structure is correct: Why is it different using which?

Shouldn't it be:
We know which it is his favorite kind of candy.

We know which his favorite kind of candy is.

Thank you in advance.
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    Your second alternative, "We know which his favorite kind of candy is", would be fine. Apparently, it wasn't an option on your exam.

    Your first alternative, "We know which it is his favorite kind of candy", is wrong because it uses two pronouns, "which" and "it" to refer to one nominal phrase "his favorite kind of candy".

    A problem with many multiple-choice language tests is that they don't and can't offer all possible grammatically correct answers. Those taking the test must choose the best answer from the ones offered in the choices.

    You are puzzled about why "We know which is his favorite kind of candy" is correct. This clause would answer a question like "Which is his favorite kind of candy?" Once again, answering "We know which/what his favorite kind of candy is" would also be correct.

    I don't have a good rule or explanation for why it's also correct to say "We know which is his favorite kind of candy", but I can tell you that it is also possible to preserve the position of the pronoun and the verb in the question "Which/what is his favorite kind of candy?" in the indirect clause.

    Unfortunately, your exam chose a fairly rare construction for the "correct" answer among its choices.

    I couldn't find a single example in the TMC for "I know which is..." or "I do not know which is..." in that corpus of one hundred million words.

    Looking in the much larger collection of language in Google, I found very few examples of the version that was one of the options on your test. Here's one from a biography about Truman Capote: "And I know which is is his window."

    I had to wade through an article and some inane replies in a blog to verify this one from "The Independent", a publication from the U.K. Here it is: OR if I see something in my FAVourite shop Tkmax reduced (I know which is his favourite brand) I'll buy it him ...

    Here's one more from "Totally Les Mills": Wow, so now I know which is his office, right next to the Marketing Director’s office.
    Last edited:


    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I agree with Owlman. I am merely offering a different way of explaining why the sentence correct.

    In the sentence:
    We know which is his favorite kind of candy
    which is a pronoun and the subject of the sentence. Thus the sentence does follow your rule "The verb [= is] goes after its subject [= which]."

    However, I find the sentence awkward. As a stylistic matter, I would prefer:
    We know which kind of candy is his favorite.
    In this sentence which is an adjective, describing kind, the subject of "is".


    Senior Member
    Español - México
    This only happens with which and what, right? They are pronouns, and the other words (where, when, why, etc.) are adverbs, have I got it?

    Would it still be incorrect to repeat the subject with an adverb?
    I know where it is your white chocolate bar.

    For where is not a pronoun, and so aren't why, when, etc., is that there is a difference? Or am I totally wrong?

    The same thing, even when I don't completely know what, does happen with who, right?

    If I'm not so apart from the correct side:
    I wasn't able to see who was there.
    I don't remember what happened.
    I'd want to know which is your favourite colour.

    Thanks, thanks, thanks...


    Senior Member
    I like your last three sentences, Magnal P, all of which use pronouns: "who", "what", and "which". Those sentences are all fine.
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