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When should I use どちら and when should I use どちらの for asking a which-question?

My intuitive understanding is that どちらの is used when one wants to ask "which [noun] ..." (e. g. どちらの色が好きですか) but I'm not sure why the の particle is used here.

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This question is all but same with the following one except the word itself.

の is a case particle which lets a noun modify another noun. Unlike English where you can directly attach a noun to another (summer vacation, Disney movie), Japanese always needs の between them. Only personal pronouns retain the rigid distinction in English, so you can simply know which to use by replacing it with a grammatically equivalent personal pronouns.

  • どちらの色が好きですか
    Which (↔ my, your, their, whose) color do you like?

  • どちらが好きですか
    Which (↔ me, you, them, who) do you like?

  • cf. どちらのが好きですか
    [Of] which (↔ mine, yours, theirs, whose) do you like?

The same applies to all question words, pronouns, and nouns. Beware that Japanese has many common noun suffixes in use, which translated to a full word in English, but is only an attachment to a free-standing noun.

どちら用ですか (用 = "—'s purpose")
For which purpose / whose usage?

どちら行きですか (行き = "bound for —")
Where is (it) going?

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  • So, to make sure I got this right: 1. One has to put の after どちら for nouns because どちら acts like noun. 2. To find out whether to use どちら or どちらの one has to replace "which" with an equivalent personal pronouns in English, then translate to Japanese. Is this correct?
    – ash
    Aug 6 '20 at 17:31
  • @ash I don't get what "for nouns" exactly means but if you're talking about the "which [noun]" pattern, yes. The rest seems correct to me as well. Aug 9 '20 at 15:49
  • That's what I mean, yes. I will edit the question to clarify. Thank you!
    – ash
    Aug 9 '20 at 16:33

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