In our everyday conversations, we often ask others to help us choose among various options. How do we phrase such a question? In this case, is “Which is better?” or “Which one is better?” the better option?
“Which is better” is the more efficient and concise option and is therefore preferred over “which one is better,” although both are grammatically correct. In scenarios where we want to emphasize specificity, we can use the phrase “which one is better.”
We will examine how and where to use the “which” phrases in this article. In addition, we will explore other question words, like “who” and “when,” and look at indefinite pronouns.
What Does “Which is Better” Mean?
The phrase “which is better” can mean two different things depending on the context. It can frame a question asking another person to make the more attractive or advantageous specific choice among a limited number of options. Or we can use this phrase to mean that one option is the more preferable to the other in a non-interrogative sentence.
- Which is the better Aladdin? The classic animated version or the new live-action one?
- Which is better? The animated Aladdin or the live-action one?
- I picked the Neapolitan milkshake, which is better than strawberry, at least for me.
Let us now look at “which” by itself to understand it better.
“Which” finds various uses; as a pronoun, a determiner, and a conjunction. We use “which” in questions when we need to choose between two or more options, as well as to refer to one choice among a few in statements.
It also precedes a relative clause when adding more information about something we refer to (source).
- Which is your favorite book?
- I can’t remember which Disney movie we watched that night.
- She grew up in a village which is miles away from where she lives today.
In What Context Can You Use “Which is Better”?
We can use “which is better” in both formal and informal contexts depending on its usage. When we use this phrase as a question, it is perfectly fine to use it in casual conversations with friends and colleagues or informal writing or dialogue.
In situations where we use it in a sentence to show comparisons, it is acceptable in formal and informal conversations and writing.
Let’s consider this situation where you ask your colleague to help choose the break room among the various teas in the selection.
- Hey Kate. Which is the better tea among these? Do you like peppermint or chai?
In an official presentation, we can use “which is better,” as we did below:
- We should promote a workplace which is better tailored to equal opportunities for all.
How Do You Use “Which is Better”?
We can use it as a question to ask someone to help us choose between two or more options. Conversely, we can use it in a non-question statement where one option is better than the other(s).
You can use it as a question:
- Which is better? Option A or option B?
- I cannot decide between red and yellow. Which is better?
- So which is better – an omelet or scrambled eggs?
You can also use it in a non-interrogative sentence to show comparison:
- City park conservation is a need which is better fulfilled when people use the parks.
- Brookies are a cross between brownies and cookies, which is better!
- The new system is not ideal, but it creates an environment which is better than before.
When Can You Use “Which is Better”?
Asking someone to help us make a choice is easier when we can phrase it as a simple question, and “Which is better?” is the easiest way to get to do so. You can also use it as a phrase in non-interrogative sentences to answer a question, make a comparison, or point out how one option is preferable to the other(s).
Now that we know more about the phrase, let us try to understand the difference between “which is better” and “which one is better” and when to use each.
Which is Better? Or Which One is Better?
Say you are at a store trying to pick a skirt for your top. You have brought your choices down to a few but are still confused. Luckily, you have your friend with you, and you ask her for her opinion as you point to the chosen few.
You could use the question “Which skirt is better?” or you could ask her “Which one is better?”
Another option would be to skip the “one” and ask her, “Which is better?” This is because the subject here – the skirt – is implicit in the question; your friend knows you are referring to the skirt.
One situation where “which one is better” doesn’t work is when you specify one option before the other in the comparison. Like in the below statement:
- We finally know the result, which is better than not knowing anything at all.
If we add the “one” to the phrase, it sounds wrong and is incorrect:
- We finally know the result, which one is better than not knowing anything at all.
However, adding the “one” to the below sentence doesn’t make it sound weird though the “one” is redundant.
- You will know which is better once you read a couple of pages in both books.
After adding “one”:
- You will know which one is better once you read a couple of pages in both books.
In contexts where you want to emphasize the end result, adding the “one” or specifying the object or subject in question will help. For example, if you want a better chance of not getting a generic answer like “both,” “neither,” “whichever,” or “all,” include the “one” or a specific item in your question.
- Which one is better? The yellow, blue, or orange hat?
- Can you tell me which restaurant is better among the options here?
Overall, you can see that the phrase “which is better” is concise and to the point, thus making it efficient and easily the best choice, though the other options are not always wrong (just redundant).
Using “Which is Better” in a Full Sentence
“Which is better?” is a complete sentence when we use it as a question. We can also add context to this question if we wish. Another way to use this is as a phrase in the middle of a non-interrogative sentence.
Below are some examples of how we can correctly use “which is better”:
- Which is better? Vanilla or butterscotch?
- He couldn’t decide between the two colors, so he asked me, “Which is better?”
- We are glad we finally know the result, which is better than not knowing anything at all.
- You will know which is better once you read just a couple of pages in both books.
- Writing papers is my wheelhouse, which is better for me than giving presentations.
When Not to Use “Which is Better”?
It is best to avoid this phrase as a question in formal situations or in formal writing. Also, when we want to emphasize the “one,” we should use “Which one is better?” rather than “Which is better?”
For example, when you are presenting choices during a presentation and want to ask the official audience for their preferred option, it is better to word the question “which is better” differently. One option would be taking a poll by asking people to pick one of the four options presented.
What Can You Use Instead of “Which is Better”?
Sometimes, we need other ways to say the same thing for various reasons. In the case of “which is better,” alternate options depend upon both context and usage of the phrase.
When we ask someone to make a choice, that is, when we use this phrase as a question, other alternate ways we can word this question are as below, sometimes not as a question at all!
- Does the vanilla taste better than the butterscotch?
- Help me make a choice.
- Should I buy one of these?
- What is the best option among these?
- Which one would you prefer?
However, in scenarios where we are using it as a phrase within a longer sentence, very often, this phrase is the best choice. However, we can rephrase it differently, as shown in the examples below:
- The new car has heated seats, which is better for long trips in the winter.
- The new car has heated seats. This makes long trips in the winter more comfortable.
- We are glad we finally know the result, which is better than not knowing anything at all.
- We are glad we finally know the result. It was tough not knowing anything at all.
Question Words and Wh- Words
Question words, or interrogatives (also called “wh- words”), are function words we use to ask open questions. These include: who, what, when, where, which, why, and how, among others. We can use “wh- words” in direct and indirect questions as well as to introduce relative clauses (source).
Wh- words find uses as adjectives (“whose”), nouns (“who,” “what”), adverbs (“when,” “where”), and relative pronouns. We use “which” as an adjective. The table below will give a better view of the most popular wh- words, their usage, and examples, including the wh- word “which.”
|Use / Meaning
|Use for getting information about a person, place, or thing. To ask “why” (with “for”)
|What is your favorite color?What was the name of the place we ate at last year?What did she do that for?
|Use to ask about time
|When did she leave home?
|Use to ask about location
|Where are you headed next?
|Use to inquire about choice
|Which color do you prefer?
|When we need to ask about a person
|Who is the girl in the orange skirt?
|To ask for the reason
|Why did you pick the orange skirt?
|Use to ask about the process or quality of something
|How did you make this cake?How is the cake?
Read our article What or Which: Differences and Usage to learn more about Wh- words.
As the name suggests, indefinite pronouns are those that do not refer to a specific person or thing, for example, “anyone,” “something,” or “few.” They function as nouns themselves (source).
“One” is an indefinite pronoun we find in the question, “Which one is better?” Let’s look at some ways we can use the indefinite pronoun “one” (source).
When we want to identify or refer to the person, place, or thing we are talking about or have previously mentioned:
- He drove his favorite car, the blue one.
- We always go to the store downtown, the one next to the theater.
In scenarios where we want to talk about a person or thing belonging to a group:
- One of her siblings is a fantastic singer.
- We only saw one of the lions at the zoo.
In an impersonal manner to refer to self, or when referring to people in general:
- If one fails, then one must try harder next time.
- One would think the whole world had collapsed.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
For more on indefinite pronouns, read our article “Everyone Is or Everyone Are: Which Is Correct?”
Asking for help with making a choice is common in our daily lives. So knowing which phrase to use helps. In casual conversations, it is perfectly fine to say, “Which is better?” Similarly, dropping the subject in writing makes the sentence concise and avoids redundancy, so use the option “Which is better?” in most informal writing.
However, in a more formal conversation, an alternate choice of asking for opinions might work better than “which is better?” Similarly, if you want to emphasize the subject, include the word “one” or the specific subject you are referring to.
With practice, you will soon use the correct phrases, indefinite pronouns, and function words, and you will be able to identify which is better effortlessly!