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Thread: which / that

  1. #1
    Sydney68 is offline Newbie
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    Default which / that

    Hi, I once learned that "which" and "that" were interchangeable.



    Does that apply to the following sentences as well?


    a) The road that / which connects the two villages is very narrow.
    b) George showed me some pictures that / which had been painted by his father.



    Can a) be considered a non-defining or defining relative clause? Or both?


    Thank you very much for your help!

  2. #2
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: which / that

    [QUOTE=Sydney68;831714]


    a) The road that / which connects the two villages is very narrow.
    b) George showed me some pictures that / which had been painted by his father.



    Can a) be considered a non-defining or defining relative clause? Or both?


    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) Here in the States, many teachers tell us learners to use only."that" for defining/

    restrictive clauses. (I hear that in other Englishes, the "rule" is not so strict.)

    (2) IMHO, both of your sentences are restrictive, so maybe you should consider

    using "that."

    (3) As you already know, you could change "a" to non-restrictive by adding some commas.


    The road, which connects the two villages, is very narrow.

  3. #3
    Sydney68 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: which / that

    Thank you.

    Your answer certainly helped but also made me think again:

    Is it really as simple as adding only two commas in order to make a sentence into a non-defining sentence? (Shouldn't it be more about context and content?)

    If I leave the commas out does that really turn the first sentence into a proper defining relative clause?

    Are there other native speakers out there verifying or contradicting the answer I received to my original post?

    Thanks a lot again for your help.

  4. #4
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: which / that

    Nothing is ever simple in English, but yes, adding commas makes it non-restrictive and leaving them out makes it restrictive.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: which / that

    PS:
    Welcome to Using English!

    The Parser always researches his posts carefully. There are times I disagree with him on modern usage of a word but never on a grammatical point. You will not need someone to confirm or refute any of his advice on grammar.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  6. #6
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: which / that

    [QUOTE=Sydney68;831739](Shouldn't it be more about context and content?)


    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) I think that you have hit on an important point: writers can reasonably disagree

    as to whether a clause is non-defining or defining. Then they can use or not use the

    commas to ratify that decision.

    (2) Perhaps some other posters can give us some examples of clauses that could be

    reasonably labeled restrictive or non-restrictive. Of course, in speech, there would be

    no commas, only pauses. So maybe one way is to say the sentence to yourself

    aloud and see whether or not you feel pauses are necessary.

    (a) There was a horrible accident on the road. About a dozen people were killed.

    The road, which connects the two villages, is very narrow. It has been the scene of

    many fatal accidents.

    (b) The road that connects the two villages is very narrow, so the government has

    decided to widen it in order to cut down on accidents and to speed up the time that is

    currently needed to travel between the two villages.

    As all the teachers and moderators always tell us learners: Context! Context! Context!

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    Sydney68 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: which / that

    Sorry if I have stepped on anyone's toes here. It wasn't my intention to be disrespectful towards TheParser. On the contrary. I valued his / her input very much. (Even more so after his / her second post! Brilliant and very helpful answer! Thank you! )

    What confuses me, however, is what I was reading between the lines of the moderator's post.. As I am new here in this forum I am not yet fully aware of all the rules, but was the implication that is was actually wrong and disrespectful to ask for other views to confirm TheParser's first answer or am I just imagining that implication? (Language barrier at work here on my part, I wonder?)

    In my experience you can ask four different native speakers and you more often than not get at least three different replies. Especially when you talk to Americans on the one hand and to people from the UK on the other. A fact, TheParser touched on, when he / she mentioned that other Englishes might abide to different grammar rules (see first post)

    So, again, I am very sorry if I have offended anyone. It most certainly was not my intention!
    @ TheParser: Thanks very much for your brilliant answers!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: which / that

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    hear that in other Englishes, the "rule" is not so strict.)
    How can one not love this language? Brilliant!
    Last edited by Bennevis; 11-Dec-2011 at 16:47.

  9. #9
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: which / that

    [QUOTE=Sydney68;831812]Sorry if I have stepped on anyone's toes here. It wasn't my intention to be disrespectful towards TheParser.


    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) Believe me, you have NOT stepped on anyone's toes.

    (2) The moderator was being very generous in her remarks about me.

    (3) In fact, I do not even dare answer most of the questions posted here.

    And when I do, I always try to get the backing of a published source.

    (4) After you have been a member for a while, you will discover that even the

    teachers and moderators disagree (in an agreeable manner, of course) about

    certain aspects of grammar.

    (5) You are 100% correct NOT to accept as necessarily correct something

    written by someone who is obliged to start his posts with the words "NOT

    A TEACHER." (Some visitors immediately skip a post with that warning, for

    they wish to hear only from bona fide teachers.)

    (6) After you have been here for a while, you will get to know the personality of

    each regular poster -- those who post questions and those who answer.

    Since December marks my second anniversary as a member, I guess that I

    have the right to welcome you as a new member.

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