Lately I have heard many people using what in place of which in adjectival phrases:

  • This cake, what is my favorite, makes me happy.
  • This cake, which is my favorite, makes me happy.

Is the first usage grammatical? Which is the preferred usage?

  • 2
    This needs context. Neither sounds correct without it.
    – David M
    Mar 1 '14 at 0:33
  • I've heard In here, what is blah blah blah, but this doesn't sound correct to me, I have also used In here, which is blah blah blah. Which is correct? Mar 1 '14 at 0:36
  • 1
    How about giving an pair of example sentences? I think I see what you're driving at, but I can't give an answer without a bit more clarification of your point.
    – David M
    Mar 1 '14 at 0:50
  • possible duplicate of "Which" or "what"
    – choster
    Mar 1 '14 at 1:06
  • 1
    Possibly dialectical. "I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique."
    – MetaEd
    Mar 1 '14 at 15:00

To clarify we're speaking of two different constructs using which or what as part of an adjectival phrase:

This cake, which is my favorite, is very fattening.


This cake, what is my favorite, is very fattening.

Which is clearly the better usage in this scenario.

I've certainly seen what used in this way (as a replacement for which), but I believe it to be a colloquial usage. Merriam-Webster calls this usage chiefly dialect.

I believe this usage to be chiefly in dialects of BrE (and perhaps Southern AmE).

  • What? ... Right.
    – Aaron Hall
    Mar 1 '14 at 1:51
  • I've only heard it used facetiously, as in The Play What I Wrote. Mar 1 '14 at 11:44
  • @TimLymington As Meta points out above, Monty Python uses it non-facetiously. Probably dialect.
    – David M
    Mar 1 '14 at 22:24
  • I'm not sure Monty Python used anything non-facetiously; that usage is certainly not to be taken seriously. Mar 1 '14 at 22:42
  • @TimLymington Well, perhaps less facetiously than some of their other dialogue. But, they were excellent at capturing dialect (even if it was for the purposes of parody).
    – David M
    Mar 1 '14 at 22:45

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