Which and witch are easily confused words. They are also homophones. This means they sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.
The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.
Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.
Which (pronounced “w-itch”) has multiple meanings.
- As a pronoun, it is used to present options, and “which” appears alone, not modifying any other word.
- (presented with two options) Which would you like?
- We have an 8am and a 2pm. Which works best for you?
- As a pronoun, it is used in a clause to add information. This usage is often confused with “that.” To clarify:
- That adds pertinent, necessary information to a sentence. It points out a unique or defining characteristic: I forgot my umbrella, that blue one with angry unicorns on it. Can you retrieve it for me?
- Which adds supplementary, “nice to have”, but not vital information to a sentence (source: Writer’s Digest). For example: My Prius, which gets 50 miles per gallon, is the green car over there.
- As an adjective, it is used to present options, and specifically mentions the noun referring to those options:
- Which umbrella is yours?
- Which pie would you like: apple or sweet potato?
- Which route is the fastest?
Witch (pronounced as it appears: “w+itch”) is a noun. It can mean a female character who possesses wisdom and supernatural powers. Stereotypical presentations of witches include elderly women, women who are ugly or scary looking, with exaggerated facial features).
- It can also mean an ill-tempered, hard to please woman.
- It can be a slang, possibly impolite word for someone who belongs to an Earth religion.
The following story uses both words correctly:
Whitley was reviewing her son’s list of teachers for second grade. They were new to town and hadn’t heard a lot of gossip. She wanted only the best for her son, Whitby. Which of these people was potentially going to be a problem? She didn’t want to tolerate any witches, grumpy old men, or other high-maintenance people. This list looked pretty good.
Fast forward to the first day of school. Whitby comes home shaken. “Mom, my teachers sound scary. They want us to do lots of work. When do I play?”