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    #1

    who or that

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to explain to me why you say “The desk whose top is cluttered with grammar books.” and never “The desk who is made of cherry wood.”?

    On the other hand, would you be kind enough also to explain to me the existence in English of the following sentences?

    “I always think of my friend who would only refer to his new stepmother as the woman that married my father.”

    “You know Bob, he's the guy that sold me my car.”

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V.


    • Join Date: Jul 2006
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    #2

    Re: who or that

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to explain to me why you say “The desk whose top is cluttered with grammar books.” and never “The desk who is made of cherry wood.”?

    On the other hand, would you be kind enough also to explain to me the existence in English of the following sentences?

    “I always think of my friend who would only refer to his new stepmother as the woman that married my father.”

    “You know Bob, he's the guy that sold me my car.”

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V.
    (W)hose is a gender neutral and number invariant relative pronoun in genitive case. On the other hand, who; that; which are not gender neutral.

    Use 'who' or 'that' for 'he', 'she' or 'they' and use 'which' or 'that' for 'it' or 'they'.


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    #3

    Re: who or that

    sir, can you give some examples for "that" and "who" to me?
    i could not understand that.

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    #4

    Re: who or that

    Hi frankhen,

    Here are a few examples of the usage of the who and that.

    The man who lives near door is very frienfly. (who lives next door tells us which man)

    People who live in Paris are freedom-loving. (who live in Paris tells us what kind of people)

    We use who in a relative clause when we are talking about people. We use who instead of he, she or they.

    An architect is someone who designs buildings.
    What was the name of of the man who lent you the money?
    The girl who was injured in the accident is now in the hospital.
    Anyone who want to take the exam must sign up before next Friday.

    When we are talking about things, we use that (not who in a relative clause). We use that instead of it, they

    Where are the eggs? They were in the refrigerator.
    Where are the eggs that were in the refrigerator.

    I don’t like the stories that have unhappy ending.
    Jerry works for a company that makes typewriters.
    Everything that happened was my fault.
    The window that was broken has now been repaired.

    My question in my original post refers to the different usage of the that and who after man in the sentence below.

    “It is entirely acceptable to write either the man that wanted to talk to you, or the man who wanted to talk to you.”

    The sentence in question I have found in the “American Heritage Dictionary”.

    Regards,

    V.

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    #5

    Re: who or that

    There are several distinctions we have to bear in mind with relative clauses and pronouns. The first is between defining and non-defining relative clauses - which I don't have time to explain now, but there are probably explanations elsewhere on this site. The second is "people vs things", the third is case.

    So: "who" is used for people, "which" for things; but, as Svartnik has pointed out, they both have a common genitive "whose". That explains the first question.

    In defining relative clauses only, "who" or "which" can optionally be replaced by "that" (or left out all together if it is the object of the relative clause). In principle it doesn't make any difference for this rule whether the referent is human or not. In "the woman that married my father", the relative clause is defining which man we're talking about, so the "that" is perfectly correct. (Or "who" would have been equally correct, as the replacement by "that" is optional.)

    (Note that some people regard the use of "that" for humans as not entirely correct. It is however perfectly grammatical in standard English as far as I know; any sensitivities about it are probably best treated as a stylistic matter.)

    Hope this helps.

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