Who Vs. That Vs. Which

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Mar 20, 2007
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Who vs. That vs. Which
Rule 1

Who refers to people. That and which refer to groups or things.


Examples:

  • Anya is the one who rescued the bird.
  • Lokua is on the team that won first place.
  • She belongs to an organization that specializes in saving endangered species.


Rule 2

That introduces essential clauses while which introduces nonessential clauses.


Examples:

  • I do not trust products that claim "all natural ingredients" because this phrase can mean almost anything.
  • We would not know which products were being discussed without the that clause.
  • The product claiming "all natural ingredients," which appeared in the Sunday newspaper, is on sale.
  • The product is already identified. Therefore, which begins a nonessential clause.


NOTE: Essential clauses do not have commas surrounding them while nonessential clauses are surrounded by commas.


Rule 3

If this, that, these, or those has already introduced an essential clause, you may use which to introduce the next clause, whether it is essential or nonessential.


Examples:

  • That is a decision which you must live with for the rest of your life.
  • Those ideas, which we've discussed thoroughly enough, do not need to be addressed again.


NOTE: Often, you can streamline your sentence by leaving out which.


Example:

  • That is a decision which you must live with for the rest of your life.

Better:

  • That is a decision you must live with for the rest of your life.
 
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