# [Vocabulary]which of the three

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#### notletrest

##### Senior Member
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?”

#### emsr2d2

##### Moderator
Staff member
Suppose there are 3 [STRIKE]persons[/STRIKE] people here and in your mind they are all bad. Can you ask a student [STRIKE]like[/STRIKE] 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.

#### notletrest

##### Senior Member
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?

#### Barb_D

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

#### notletrest

##### Senior Member
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!

#### emsr2d2

##### Moderator
Staff member
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.

#### notletrest

##### Senior Member

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, "

#### tedtmc

##### Key Member
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

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#### emsr2d2

##### Moderator
Staff member
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!

#### Raymott

##### VIP Member
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 ..."

#### notletrest

##### Senior Member
You can fix this easily if you want to, by asking:
"Which, if any, of the three ..."
1.What we are discussing is how to correctly answer the question---" Which of the three visitors do you find suspicious? "and is not how to correct the question.
2.The words by Eveans "Which always asks about some out of a definite , known group,"are our guidance to the problem.
3.Thus coming the result:"all of them" cannot be as the key."Do you think so?I am glad to hear you.Thank you.

#### Raymott

##### VIP Member
1.What we are discussing is how to correctly answer the question---" Which of the three visitors do you find suspicious? "and is not how to correct the question.
2.The words by Eveans "Which always asks about some out of a definite , known group,"are our guidance to the problem.
Your guidance is flawed if this is all you have to go on.
3.Thus coming the result:"all of them" cannot be as the key."Do you think so?
No I don't agree. 'Some' can include 'all' in this context. But 'some' cannot include 'none' - though most native speakers would not have a problem with answering 'none' to a "Which?" question, if that was their opinion.
But I agree that, if you find none of them suspicious, you cannot sensibly answer that question in a pedantically correct way given Evans' definition.
I am glad to hear you.Thank you.
What I meant was that Evans could fix his description by adding "if any", not that you should have to amend an error in a textbook. But, if you ever decide to use a question like this, you could add my guidance to that of Evans, and ask, "Which, if any, of the three visitors, do you find suspicious?"

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#### notletrest

##### Senior Member
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!
I am satisfied with you.Thank you very much!

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