What Year or Which Year – Which Is Correct? (Examples)

Do you know when to use “Which” and when to use “What”? For example, when asking about a year, should you say “Which Year”, or “What Year”?

We want to know if there’s a difference between using “Which” and “What”, and discover how to ask questions or make comments appropriately.

What Year or Which Year – Which Is Correct?

“What Year” and “Which Year” are both grammatically correct. But they indicate slightly different things, and that’s what you must think about when choosing between them. Use “What Year” when the answer could be any year. Use “Which Year” when the answer must be from a limited set of years.

what year or which year

Take a look at the examples below:

  • What year was that?
  • In which year was that?
  • Which year did France win the world cup? 2018 or 2019?
  • What year did France win the world cup?

Take a look at the examples. The first set of sentences is very generic. We ask a simple question and because it’s too shallow and lacks detail, both forms work. In other words, in some scenarios, the forms could interchange. You could use “What Year” and “Which Year” and get away with it.

The second set of sentences, asks about when France won the world cup. Because in the first example we suggest two years as choices for the answer, the correct thing to do is use “Which Year”. It indicates that the answers must be pulled from one of those options, ideally.

In the second sentence, we leave the question open, and the answer could be any year. Therefore, the correct form is “What Year”, since we’re just letting the person we’re talking to know they can pick the answer from an illimited set of years.

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Watch the video: Only 1 percent of our visitors get these 3 grammar questions right...

What Year

“What Year” should be used when your question is open and could yield any year as a response. You’re not expecting an answer from a set of years, nor your conversation is related to a particular set of years. If you’re in a conversation, “What Year” works when the range of years isn’t part of the discussion.

Take a look at some examples:

  1. What year were you born?
  2. I don’t know what year Joe got married. All I know is I haven’t seen him since.
  3. What year the war end isn’t the point. The point is that Grandpa never recovered.
  4. What year was the new president elected?
  5. What year did you meet Frank?

Which Year

“Which Year” should be used when the conversation relates to a predetermined set of years. In other words, if you’re asking a question, the answer to it will not be random and must come from a set of choices. Use “Which Year” when there are limitations as to “Which Year” you’re talking about.

Take a look at the examples:

  1. You’re younger than me. In which year were you born?
  2. I can’t know for sure which year it was, but it was before Mary came to work with us.
  3. I have heard you just got tenure. In which year did you start working here?
  4. I know you were married in 2010. In which year did the conflicts start?
  5. I can’t remember which year it was, but I had already graduated from college.

Which Is Used the Most?

Which one of those forms is used more often, “What Year” or “Which Year”? Let’s find out by taking a look at the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below.

what year or which year usage

Currently, “What Year” is more common than “Which Year”. However, it’s not by a large difference. Also, this hasn’t always been the case.

The graph shows that, in the past, “Which Year” and “What Year” swapped places as the prevalent form, indicating that it could happen again in the future depending on how people are talking about things and having their conversations.

The important thing to remember is that both forms are grammatically correct and acceptable. Therefore, as long as we used them properly, and respect the grammatical rules, we should be good to go.

Final Thoughts

“What Year” and “Which Year” are grammatically correct, acceptable forms. Use “What Year” when you aren’t specific about any set of years, nor expect the answer to be from a particular set of years. When there are limitations in the set of years you’re discussing, use “Which Year”.