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    #1

    who / that

    I am confused by the following sentence written by a veteran teacher. According to grammar rules, if an interrogative sentence starts with interrogative “who”, its following-up relative pronoun should use “that,” not “who.” So, is the relative pronoun “who” in the following sentence as written grammatically correct?

    Who was the boy with a conical hat who crawled through the ladder in this photo from 50 years ago?

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: who / that

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashiuhto View Post
    I am confused by the following sentence written by a veteran teacher. According to grammar rules, if an interrogative sentence starts with interrogative “who”, its following-up relative pronoun should use “that,” not “who.” So, is the relative pronoun “who” in the following sentence as written grammatically correct?

    Who was the boy with a conical hat who crawled through the ladder in this photo from 50 years ago?
    I think this is a matter of style, not grammar. As a matter of style we try not repeat words too often in one sentence. For that reason, many would prefer "Who was the boy...that" to "who was the boy..who". If this was ever a grammar rule, it has been ignored more that it has been followed, at least lately.

    "Who was the man who" -- 260,000,000 Google hits
    "Who was the man that" -- 121,000,000 Google hits

    The results of an Ngram are interesting. They suggest that there was a preference for "that" for most of the 19th century.

    See results here: https://books.google.com/ngrams/grap...20that%3B%2Cc0

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