I have three questions about "which" and indirect speech.

  1. Is it not possible to have indirect speech using "which"? I have explored a lot of grammar sites but none of them give an explanation (or at least an example) of indirect speech using "which". And it makes me think that (probably) "which" can't be used in indirect speech. But I fully doubt my opinion.

  2. If "which" can be used in indirect speech, can you help me change this sentence into indirect speech?

    Which one is your book?

  3. What's the indirect of this sentence?

    What's the best?

    Could it be "What the best is"? But again, I doubt it.

1 Answer 1


'Which' can certainly be used in indirect speech, as in

  1. She asked him, "which book do you want to read?"

She asked him which book he wanted to read.

  1. "It is the new cult of selfishness which has devalued altruism," they complained.

They complained that it was the new cult of selfishness which had devalued altruism.

(Note: in reported speech, 'which' can be replaced with 'that' in certain situations, as in "they complained that it was the new cult of selfishness that had devalued altruism.")

Regarding your specific sentences,

  1. "Which one is your book?" (she asked him)

She asked him which one his book was (reporting her speech literally) but a better construction would be,

she asked him which book was his.

Remember that you don't need to use the exact same words when putting what somebody said into reported speech.

  1. "What's the best," (she asked)

She asked what the best was.

(This is, however, an awkward construction because we are not told who she is asking, or what 'best' is referring to. In fact 'which' goes with 'best' more often than 'what' does. When referring to specific things, 'which' is preferable to 'what', as in "which is the easiest language to learn," "which is the best story written by Poe?" and "which is the friendliest canine?" But 'what' is also used with 'best' in other contexts, as in "what's the best explanation for his behavior?" "What would be the best reply to this impertinence?" and "what is the best solution to this problem?")

  • You are welcome. Please read my recently edited answer (to the same question) as well. Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 1:52
  • “Which one is your book?” would not normally become “She asked him which one his book was”; that is somewhat clumsy and not very likely to actually be produced. Much more likely is the more straightforward “She asked him which one was his book”. Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 14:51
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet that is very true. As you can see I am a non-native non-speaker, much more familiar with the written word & 'technically correct forms', not really familiar with how English is actually spoken by native speakers. And Indians, of course, don't speak Indian English in the way of native speakers. Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 15:24

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