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    • Join Date: Sep 2009
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    #1

    When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Hi, I do not understand when we should use 'which' and when should we use 'that'? I have an example below.

    'This is different from the traditional financial method which/that only focuses on financial performance indicators.'

    Basically, I am confused as to when each should be used as the 2 words sound interchangeable.

    Please advise.

    Thanks!


    • Join Date: Sep 2009
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    #2

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Quote Originally Posted by bowsnhearts View Post
    Hi, I do not understand when we should use 'which' and when should we use 'that'? I have an example below.

    'This is different from the traditional financial method which/that only focuses on financial performance indicators.'

    Basically, I am confused as to when each should be used as the 2 words sound interchangeable.

    Please advise.

    Thanks!
    They are interchangeable in this example, Bows. You've probably run into the silly prescription which/that tells you that 'that' is used for restrictive relatives and 'which' is used for non-restrictive relatives. Pay it no mind.

    As a native speaker of English you know exactly when and how to use them. You just can't consciously explain it. But don't worry about that. There are people who study all their lives and still can't explain it.

    In a nutshell:

    1. restrictive clauses - use both which and that, with which being more formal.

    2. when the thing becomes known, becomes clearly identified, then only 'which' is used because we have a non-restrictive clause, BUT, this is the crucial point; it's not that it's because it's a non-restrictive clause that we have to use 'which', it's because the thing has been sufficiently described that we use 'which'.

    It was named after the fact and this is the part that confused some prescriptivists into making a bad analysis and concocting another silly prescription.

    Basically, the same works for people using that and who. When the person is identified, we use who. There are some other considerations that enter into it but the grammar is the same.

    SIDNEY GOLDBERG ON NYT GRAMMAR: ZERO FOR THREE

    1. That and which. The first charge is that the Times "consistently proves that it does not know the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which,’ greatly favoring the latter." There's only one thing he could be alluding to here: he's one of those people who believe the old nonsense about which being disallowed in what The Cambridge Grammar calls integrated relative clauses (the old-fashioned term is "restrictive" or "defining" relative clauses). Strunk and White perpetuate that myth. I've discussed it elsewhere. The notion that phrases like any book which you would want to read are ungrammatical is so utterly in conflict with the facts that you can refute it by looking in... well, any book which you would want to read. As I said before about which in integrated relatives:

    As a check on just how common it is in excellent writing, I searched electronic copies of a few classic novels to find the line on which they first use which to introduce an integrated relative with which, to tell us how much of the book you would need to read before you ran into an instance:

    A Christmas Carol (Dickens): 1,921 lines, first occurrence on line 217 = 11% of the way through;
    Alice in Wonderland (Carroll): 1,618 lines, line 143 = 8%;
    Dracula (Stoker): 9,824 lines, line 8 = less than 1%;
    Lord Jim (Conrad): 8,045 lines, line 15 = 1%;
    Moby Dick (Melville): 10,263 lines, line 103 = 1%;
    Wuthering Heights (Bronte): 7,599 lines, line 56 = 0.736%...
    Do I need to go on? No. The point is clear. On average, by the time you've read about 3% of a book by an author who knows how to write you will already have encountered an integrated relative clause beginning with which. They are fully grammatical for everyone. The copy editors are enforcing a rule which has no support at all in the literature that defines what counts as good use of the English language. Their which hunts are pointless time-wasting nonsense.

    Language Log: Sidney Goldberg on NYT grammar: zero for three


    • Join Date: Sep 2009
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    #3

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Hi albeit,

    Thanks for your reply. I have read through your reply a few times and perhaps only understand about 60% of it as I am a student . The last time I actually had an English class was about 7 years ago. I have no idea why they failed to emphasise the importance of the English language in universities. Our lecturers are just interested in telling us to get our points across without any regard to the grammatical errors.

    To summarise what you said,

    1) The 2 words are actually inter exchangeable.
    2) When the thing becomes known to us (or simply sufficiently described), we should use 'which'. Otherwise, we should use 'that'.
    3) Basically, in regards to the choices between 'which' and 'that' and 'that' and 'who', we should only use 'that' when something is unidentified.

    Please confirm if my points are right?

    Thanks so much!


    • Join Date: Sep 2009
    • Posts: 422
    #4

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Quote Originally Posted by bowsnhearts View Post
    Hi albeit,

    Thanks for your reply. I have read through your reply a few times and perhaps only understand about 60% of it as I am a student . The last time I actually had an English class was about 7 years ago. I have no idea why they failed to emphasise the importance of the English language in universities. Our lecturers are just interested in telling us to get our points across without any regard to the grammatical errors.
    Hi Bowsnhearts.

    I don't believe that any university lecturer is intent on letting anyone write in a willy-nilly fashion. Grammar has been badly taught for hundreds of years and many still labor under false rules.


    Quote Originally Posted by bowsnhearts View Post
    To summarise what you said,

    1) The 2 words are actually interchangeable.

    Until, the object is sufficiently identified.

    The book which/that I'm holding is Jane's. [now identified] This book, which contains 1,897 pages weighs eight pounds. Jane's book, which was taken from her car, was found near a bus stop.


    2) When the thing becomes known to us (or simply sufficiently described), we should use 'which'. Otherwise, we should use 'that'.

    No, we have a choice between 'that' or 'which'. See my reply to 1). 'that' is probably more used in speech while 'which' is more used in academic writing and newspapers.

    [I don't have my Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English, which [no 'that' as the book has been sufficiently describe] describes usage in the various registers.]


    3) Basically, in regards to the choices between 'which' and 'that' and 'that' and 'who', we should only use 'that' when something is unidentified.

    No, see my points above, Bowsn.

    With regard to people;

    *Bowsnhearts, that lives in Australia,*

    [* denotes ungrammatical]

    Bowsnhearts, who lives in Australia, has some questions on relative pronouns.

    The person who/that asked me questions about relative pronouns is Bowsnhearts.



    Please confirm if my points are right?

    Thanks so much!
    bb

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    #5

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Quote Originally Posted by bowsnhearts View Post
    Hi, I do not understand when we should use 'which' and when should we use 'that'?

    In NONRESTRICTIVE relative clauses, use only 'who/which' (not 'that').

    In RESTRICTIVE clauses, either 'that' or 'who/which', with the former being generally the more common.
    Last edited by philo2009; 23-Sep-2009 at 12:09.

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    #6

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    In NONRESTRICTIVE relative clauses, use only 'that' (not 'who/which').
    Shouldn't this be the other way round?

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    #7

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Quote Originally Posted by orangutan View Post
    Shouldn't this be the other way round?
    Absolutely!
    Thank you for your vigilance. The error has been corrected.


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    #8

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Thanks for all of your help!

    Albeit, I am doing my Masters in Accounting. Hence my lecturers are more interested in the results of my findings [ figures and comparative statistics] rather than constantly correcting my work for grammatical errors.

    I think it is a pity because I do wish that my grasp of English will be stronger after completing my tertiary education. However, it turns out that my command of English is getting weaker and weaker because I do not get corrected whenever I make a mistake in my essays anymore.

    Thanks again everyone.


    • Join Date: Sep 2009
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    #9

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Quote Originally Posted by bowsnhearts View Post
    Thanks for all of your help!

    However, it turns out that my command of English is getting weaker and weaker because I do not get corrected whenever I make a mistake in my essays anymore.

    Thanks again everyone.
    You're welcome, Bowsnhearts.

    I'm a bit puzzled. If you know that you've made a mistake in your essay why would you be seeking correction from someone else.


    • Join Date: Jul 2009
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    #10

    Re: When do we use 'which' and when do we use 'that'?

    Quote Originally Posted by orangutan View Post
    Shouldn't this be the other way round?
    Yes, I think so.

    I think this is just a mistake from typing and thinking too fast.


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