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We use What and Which to ask about things.

We usually use "what" when there are many possible answers:
What’s her name?

We normally use "which" when there are only a few possible answers:
Which pencil is yours, the orange
one or the yellow one?

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Jerome C.

In my understanding, "which kind" implies that a choice is expected, while "what kind" is a more open-ended form that does not necessarily call for a choice or even a reply.


I have to agree with English on this. To borrow your example, "what" would imply that you can pick any ice cream, not just the types of ice cream the store has listed as available. However, "which" implies that you should only pick from the available ice creams listed.

For example, a certain restaurant only offers Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry ice cream. When the waiter asks you, "What kind of ice cream would you like," you could concievably answer, "Chocolate Chip." He did not ask you to choose from the listed ice creams. However, he does ask you to choose from the list if he asks, "Which kind of ice cream would you like?" With this second question, you only have three possible answers, none of which are "Chocolate Chip." So, despite "Chocolate Chip" being the ice cream you would prefer, you would only say one of the listed three.

Deanne Cobb

This is an intriguing question and I would answer it differently than all of the above.

I would not use "Which" with any kind of qualifier in a noun phrase such as "type of" or "kind of". Which is typically used with the base noun (e.g., ice cream) so the question would be "which ice cream" or "which ice cream flavor would you like" whereas what is used when there is a qualifier "what kind of fool am I?" "what type of music do you prefer" etc. For me the issue isn't one of hypothetical or amount of choice but rather a grammatical issue.

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