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[a] Which is the best choice for the blank?
[b] What's the best choice you have made? (TED)

Which are the subjects in above respectively?

It seems like which in [a] and what in [b] are subjects.
And I also get the idea that which and what might be complements of the verbs respectively. For I can make these echo questions, in those which and what are complements.

The best choice is which for the blank?
The best choice you have made is what?

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2  
“The best choice is which for the blank” is not English. You could say, “The best choice for the blank is which?”, but it would still be highly awkward. ‘Which’ as a pronoun does not function well as a complement; it prefers to be subject. Other interrogative pronouns, too, prefer to be subjects, but with less prejudice than ‘which’. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 18 at 10:21
    
@JanusBahsJacquet, From you comment, I guess who in 'who is he?' is the complement, while which in 'which is he?' is the subject. Is this right guessing? –  Listenever Feb 18 at 12:20
    
Sorry, that was imprecisely worded of me. I should have said that ‘which’ does not like to appear in the typical complement position (after the word). To conclusively answer whether ‘which’ is really the subject or the complement in a sentence like “Which is he?” you’d probably have to apply and understand some syntactic models that are more advanced than my level of syntactic comprehension. @JohnLawler can probably give you a better answer. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 18 at 12:36
    
The verb agrees not with "what" but "choice". That is, you would ask "What are the best choices you have made?" Does this mean "choice" is the subject? It depends on your definition of "subject". –  Peter Shor Mar 20 at 12:15

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

1.) Which is the best choice for the blank?

2.) What is the best choice that you have made?

Which are the subjects in the above respectively?

Yes, "Which" and "What" can be considered to be the grammatical subjects.

It is also reasonable to consider that the noun phrases headed by the word "choice" are the grammatical subjects.

.

LONG VERSION:

Usually, subject-auxiliary inversion can help in pinpointing the grammatical subject of a sentence.

Creating similar example sentences by expanding the, er, verb phrase into using multiple verbs, which includes an auxiliary, can often be helpful. In your case, by doing that, we can get:

1.b) Which will be the best choice for the blank?

2.b) What will be the best choice that you have made?

These two new versions (#1b and #2b) have meanings that are somewhat similar to those in the original two examples. Notice that there is nothing in between the auxiliary "will" and the verb "be", and so, that means that there hasn't been any subject-auxiliary inversion, and that means that the subjects are "Which" and "What".

Since the subjects in #1b and #2b are "Which" and "What", that means that the subjects in the two original examples (#1 and #2) in the OP's post can also be "Which" and "What".

As a reaffirming sort of test: For these four examples, these could be the associated declarative clause versions,

1.c) Answer D is the best choice for the blank.

2.c) Staying single is the best choice that you have made.

and,

1.d) Answer D will be the best choice for the blank.

2.d) Staying single will be the best choice that you have made.

All four of the declarative versions sound reasonable.

.

Though, do note that the two original examples could be interpreted as having gone through subject-auxiliary inversion already, and so, that the subjects could be the noun phrases headed by the word "choice":

  • 1.x) Which is the best choice for the blank?

  • 2.x) What is the best choice that you have made?

The in situ versions of these interrogative clauses -- where the subject is now located in the front -- could be:

  • 1.x.b) The best choice for the blank is which?

  • 2.x.b) The best choice that you have made is what?

.

Here's a related post (which is even longer) on this topic:

http://english.stackexchange.com/a/145569/57102

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'A' implies there are several options to choose from: 'Which [of these] is the best choice for the blank?'

'B' implies the focus of the question is a single term: 'What [single choice, of all the choices you have ever made] is the best choice you have made?'

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2  
That doesn't answer the question. The question was about the syntax of the sentences, not their semantics. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 18 at 11:49
    
@JanusBahsJacquet I think you'll find I did answer the question, which was to do with identifying the subjects of the sentences. If that was your only reason for demoting, please reverse, or clarify. Thanks –  Leon Conrad Feb 18 at 11:52
    
Sorry, but I don’t see anything in your answer that addresses the question of whether the interrogative pronouns here syntactically act as subjects or subject complements in the sentences. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 18 at 11:53
    
@JanusBahsJacquet I suspect we define complement differently. I can't see verb complements as being relevant, at least as defined here - public.wsu.edu/~mejia/Verb_3.htm. The subjects remain the same, whether the sentence is interrogative, or declarative. Am I missing something? –  Leon Conrad Feb 18 at 15:44
    
Ah, I see. I was talking about subject complements (aka subject predicates/predicatives), i.e., ‘a man’ in “He is a man”. That's what I understood the question was about, though I see now that it just says “complements”, not subject complements specifically. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 18 at 20:37

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