1. which of the three

Suppose there are 3 persons here. and in your mind they are all bad. Can you ask a student like this:”Which of the three is bad?”

2. Re: which of the three

Originally Posted by notletrest
Suppose there are 3 persons people here and in your mind they are all bad. Can you ask a student like this: "Which of the three is bad?”
When you say "in your mind they are all bad", do you mean that this is simply your opinion? If there is no evidence that any of them are bad, then I don't see how your students could answer the question.

However, I am assuming that in the situation, there would a be a little more information for them to go on, so you could say:

Which of the three is bad? (The use of "is" would suggest that you are expecting the answer to only involve one of the three.)

Which of the three are bad? (The use of "are" suggests you expect that at least two of them would be involved in the answer.)

How many of the three are bad (people)? - The answer would simply be a number.

Are any of these people bad? If so, which (ones)? Elicits a yes/no, followed by a specific answer.

3. Re: which of the three

Originally Posted by emsr2d2
When you say "in your mind they are all bad", do you mean that this is simply your opinion? If there is no evidence that any of them are bad, then I don't see how your students could answer the question.

However, I am assuming that in the situation, there would a be a little more information for them to go on, so you could say:

Which of the three is bad? (The use of "is" would suggest that you are expecting the answer to only involve one of the three.)

Which of the three are bad? (The use of "are" suggests you expect that at least two of them would be involved in the answer.)

How many of the three are bad (people)? - The answer would simply be a number.

Are any of these people bad? If so, which (ones)? Elicits a yes/no, followed by a specific answer.
Thank you for detailed explanation.My real problem is:In a multiple -choice question,the question is :"Which of the three vistitors do you find suspicios? a. the waiter, b. the man, c.the waitress d. all of them "In my eyes, the " d" item shouldn't be in,because which of the three is excluded all of the three.Am I right?

4. Re: which of the three

No, the word "which" can be for more than one. It does not restrict the answer to one and one only.

5. Re: which of the three

Originally Posted by Barb_D
No, the word "which" can be for more than one. It does not restrict the answer to one and one only.
Thanks a lot.But you haven't solved my problem.Of course I know in the above ,which doesn't restrict one or more than one.My point is :Can which refer to all of the three?According to the <A Dictionary of contemporary American Usage>by Evans:" It (i.e. which ,noted by me)always asks about some out of a definite, known group."P.553.So I think the d item in the original can't be as the right choice ,though it may be an interferer.Am I right?Thanks a lot!

6. Re: which of the three

Originally Posted by notletrest
Thanks a lot.But you haven't solved my problem.Of course I know in the above ,which doesn't restrict one or more than one.My point is :Can which refer to all of the three?According to the <A Dictionary of contemporary American Usage>by Evans:" It (i.e. which ,noted by me)always asks about some out of a definite, known group."P.553.So I think the d item in the original can't be as the right choice ,though it may be an interferer.Am I right?Thanks a lot!

Which of the three do you find suspicious?
All of them!

Which of the three do you find suspicious?
None of them.

Which of the three do you find suspicious?
One of them - the waiter.

Which of the three do you find suspicious?
Two of them - the waiter and the waitress.

All of those answers are possible, and the question would be the same.

7. Re: which of the three

Originally Posted by emsr2d2

Which of the three do you find suspicious?
All of them!

Which of the three do you find suspicious?
None of them.

Which of the three do you find suspicious?
One of them - the waiter.

Which of the three do you find suspicious?
Two of them - the waiter and the waitress.

All of those answers are possible, and the question would be the same.
You said clearly.Bu what do you think of Evan's words
"Which always asks about some out of a definite , known group, "

8. Re: which of the three

some out of a definite , known group
This is only a general statement and shouldn't be taken too literally. It could be anything from 'none' to 'all of them'. Otherwise, how else do you ask the question?

not a teacher

9. Re: which of the three

Originally Posted by notletrest
You said clearly.Bu what do you think of Evan's words
"Which always asks about some out of a definite , known group, "
I simply don't think it's clear enough. Perhaps it should say "Which - always asks about none, some or all of a definite, known group".

I think the more important part of the definition is the "of a definite known group". You wouldn't use "which" for vague, general groups.

Which people in the world have blond hair? Incorrect - all the people in the world isn't a definite group.
How many people in the world have blond hair? Correct. Difficult to answer, but...!

Which of the people in this room have blond hair? Correct, and easy to answer!

10. Re: which of the three

Originally Posted by notletrest
You said clearly.Bu what do you think of Evan's words
"Which always asks about some out of a definite , known group, "
You can fix this easily if you want to, by asking:
"Which, if any, of the three ..."

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