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What vs which when referring to people.

(8 Posts)
AnnieLobeseder Mon 22-Jun-09 20:55:42

Please, kind pedants, help me out with this one.

"...wondering what celebrity lived there."

Should be:

"...wondering, which celebrity lived there," not so?

thumbwitch Tue 23-Jun-09 00:03:52

Does this help you?

I would say that the answer is it should be "What celebrity..." if there are limitless options on who it might be; but if you had a list of slebs to choose from then it should be "Which sleb..."

AnnieLobeseder Wed 24-Jun-09 16:19:28

That is helpful, yes. But I thought that it was kinda rude to refer to people as 'what'.

Bucharest Wed 24-Jun-09 16:21:14

Thumbwitch is correct...what=limitless choice, which=limited choice.
I'd use which in this case, as celebrities as a "set" is a limited group.

AnnieLobeseder Wed 24-Jun-09 20:39:31

Thanks ladies. I'm going to leave it as 'what', cos I'm proofreading and the rule of thumb is to leave well enough alone if it isn't actually incorrect.

Can I run another one by you please?

...her admission of being a failure.
...her admission to being a failure.

thumbwitch Thu 25-Jun-09 00:37:41

one admits to being a failure; admission of anything is to allow it into somewhere. Except admission of guilt, I suppose. Well, no, even then admission of guilt is allowing guilt to enter into your mind/being, so I stick by my first point.wink

But it isn't a good way to say it - it would be better to say "she admits to being a failure", or "her admission that she is/was a failure".

Bucharest Thu 25-Jun-09 07:09:38

I think I'd say "her admission of failure" and be done with it!

AnnieLobeseder Thu 25-Jun-09 19:18:35

Thanks ladies. Deadline was last night so replies were sadly too late, but I left it as 'admission of being' cos I found lots of examples of that being used on Google. A frightening way to get the 'right' answer on a paying job, I know! grin

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