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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?

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  • 2
    This needs context. Neither sounds correct without it.
    – David M
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 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? Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 0:36
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    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
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 0:50
  • possible duplicate of "Which" or "what"
    – choster
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 1:06
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    Possibly dialectical. "I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique."
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 15:00

1 Answer 1

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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.

vs

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).

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  • What? ... Right.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 1:51
  • I've only heard it used facetiously, as in The Play What I Wrote. Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 11:44
  • @TimLymington As Meta points out above, Monty Python uses it non-facetiously. Probably dialect.
    – David M
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 22:24
  • I'm not sure Monty Python used anything non-facetiously; that usage is certainly not to be taken seriously. Commented Mar 1, 2014 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
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 22:45

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