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Is it correct to say:

I don't know which boy you meet.

For me which here makes sense but grammatically I think there is something wrong by using which to refer to the boy.

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3 Answers 3

In your example, which is not a relative pronoun, but a determiner, pre-modifying boy. As a determiner, it can be used with animate and inanimate nouns. The sentence is grammatical, but it’s hard to understand what it means out of context. It would be more likely to occur as ‘I don't know which boy you are meeting.’

Unlike the first sentence, the second one contains not one, but two, relative clauses, but it, too, is a most unusual sentence. Its most natural manifestation would be as ‘I don't know who the boy you are meeting is’.

The first relative clause is ‘who the boy. . . is’. The second is ‘you are meeting’. This second one omits the relative pronoun, but if you want to include it, you can. In that case it would be either that, who or whom. A relative clause can be introduced by that when, as here, it forms part of an integrated relative clause, also known as a defining relative clause or a restrictive relative clause. The choice between who and whom, in both relative clauses, depends on the formality of the context, with who being less formal, and probably more frequent, but both are found in Standard English. In relative clauses, which acts differently from when it is a determiner. In a relative clause, it can only refer to inanimate antecedents.

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'As a determiner, [which] can be used with animate and inanimate nouns.' Yes - there are parallels (or near-parallels) with these usages: The barns whose roofs blew off... . It seems that murderer shot the professor; then they dropped the gun into the bowl of acid. I suppose that these are examples of semantic broadening, though the term is usually used for generalisation of lexical words. –  Edwin Ashworth Mar 2 '13 at 11:17
    
@Edwin Ashworth. Of course, in The barns whose roofs blew off, whose is a relative pronoun. But, yes, whose can refer to a non-human antecedent (but which can't refer to a human one). –  Barrie England Mar 2 '13 at 12:03
    
@BarrieEngland Of course you are perfectly correct, but I still find it interesting who when in sentence-initial position, whose now must refer to a human, or at least animate, agent. This is not true as a relative pronoun, as you point out, but seems to be so for an interrogative one. –  tchrist Mar 2 '13 at 14:05

The sentence is grammatical and there is nothing wrong with using which as a determiner (I don't know which boy you meet) and relative pronoun (That is the boy which she met) even when you are describing a person. However, bear in mind, the sentence "I don't know who the boy that you meet is." is slightly different from "I don't know which boy you meet." because when which is used, it is referring to something among a group of things:

There are many boys that you meet, which one is he?

[Updates] I'd suggest you to use the sentence "I don't know which boy you met" or "I don't know which boy you have met" if the meeting has already taken place.

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yes, i agree with you but WHICH as a relative pronoun should refer to things not people!!! –  Marwa Rostom Mar 2 '13 at 7:00
    
@MarwaRostom It can refer to anything. –  0ar.ch Mar 2 '13 at 7:01
    
i think it's illogical to say: the man which I met yesterday, was kind. it must be: the man who I met yesterday, was kind. –  Marwa Rostom Mar 2 '13 at 7:04
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@MarwaRostom: It should be The man whom I met yesterday. It is incorrect to say The man who I met yesterday –  Roronoa Zoro Mar 2 '13 at 7:10
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I agree that The man whom I met yesterday is more correct in terms of the use of pronoun. But expressions like The man who I met yesterday are very common nowadays and personally I don't think they should be thought of as absolutely incorrect. They are just informal or too colloquial. –  0ar.ch Mar 2 '13 at 7:50

@MarwaRostom As per my knowledge which is used for things not people, secondly in your sentence you used meet, this sentence relates to past so you should use met so to expression this kind of sentence the possible sentences would be :-

  1. I don't know whom you met.
  2. The boy whom you met.
  3. The boy whom I met, I don't know who was he?
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> as for meet or met... both may work here for the meaning may be that I meet him regularly –  Marwa Rostom Mar 2 '13 at 7:59
    
Which can be used with people. And where does it say that the sentence relates to the past? –  Jez Mar 2 '13 at 9:53

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