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  1. #1
    roseriver1012's Avatar
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    Question Why "that" not "which"?

    Our city is no longer the shabby town __________ it used to be.

    "That" can be filled in the blank, but why "which" can't be? Thanks!

  2. #2
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why "that" not "which"?

    Quote Originally Posted by roseriver1012 View Post
    Our city is no longer the shabby town __________ it used to be.

    "That" can be filled in the blank, but why "which" can't be? Thanks!
    In AmE, we use "that" for defining clauses. The rules may be different in BrE.

  3. #3
    roseriver1012's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why "that" not "which"?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    In AmE, we use "that" for defining clauses. The rules may be different in BrE.
    When we are learning the English grammar, we usually learn some rules. For the part of the attributive clause, we are told that there are several situations in which the relative "that" should be used instead of " which" like there is "something" or "nothing" before the clause and so on. But in this sentence, I can't find any rule that shows "which" can't be used. So, help me please.

  4. #4
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Why "that" not "which"?

    It is not strictly ungrammatical, but highly unidiomatic to use 'which' or 'who' to introduce a restrictive relative clause predicated by a copular (as opposed to a simple transitive) verb, even in BrE, which often tolerates the latter.

  5. #5
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Why "that" not "which"?

    Most native speakers would say

    'Our city is no longer the shabby town it used to be'.

  6. #6
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why "that" not "which"?

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    It is not strictly ungrammatical, but highly unidiomatic to use 'which' or 'who' to introduce a restrictive relative clause predicated by a copular (as opposed to a simple transitive) verb, even in BrE, which often tolerates the latter.
    I agree that speakers of BrE often use 'which'. This hardly makes it highly unidiomatic.
    Last edited by 5jj; 03-Jul-2013 at 08:57. Reason: typo

  7. #7
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Why "that" not "which"?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I agree that speakers of BrE often use 'which'. This hardly makes it highly unidiomatic.
    No, of course not!

    As my response, I believe, makes clear, the highly unidiomatic (/borderline ungrammatical) nature of the construction under investigation is in spite, not because, of this tolerance.

  8. #8
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why "that" not "which"?

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    As my response, I believe, makes clear, the highly unidiomatic (/borderline ungrammatical) nature of the construction under investigation is in spite, not because, of this tolerance.
    I am afraid that sentence makes no sense to me. If the form is commonly used, then it is not unidiomatic. What on earth makes it ungrammatical? And where does tolerance come into this? We don't tolerate this construction - it's a natural part of the language.

  9. #9
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Why "that" not "which"?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I am afraid that sentence makes no sense to me.
    Not surprising, since you don't appear to have properly read my original post, in which I confirmed that the sentence under consideration

    Our city is no longer the shabby town which it used to be.

    is (on account of the copular predicator) unidiomatic, even by BrE standards, which would happily allow, e.g.

    This is the money which I borrowed from you.

    (Cf. AmE:...that I borrowed...).

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