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    #1

    that vs which

    I know that this topic has been flogged to death. But I still can't make out the difference between the usages of that and which.

    1) All the information needed is there in the document that I sent you yesterday.
    2) All the information needed is there in the document which I sent you yesterday.

    Which one of the above sentences is grammatically correct? I know that removing that and which from these sentences will make them more natural, but if you had to use one of them which one would it be?

    3) There are books that explain clearly the usage of tenses.
    4) There are books which explain clearly the usage of tenses.

    Also, which one of the above is natural?

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    #2

    Re: that vs which

    First, have a look here BBC World Service | Learning English | Learn it

    _____________________
    "It boils down to this: if you can tell which thing is being discussed without the which or that clause, use which; if you can't, use that." ~ http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/t.html


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    #3

    Re: that vs which

    Quote Originally Posted by daemon99 View Post
    I know that this topic has been flogged to death. But I still can't make out the difference between the usages of that and which.

    1) All the information needed is there in the document that I sent you yesterday.
    2) All the information needed is there in the document which I sent you yesterday.

    Which one of the above sentences is grammatically correct? I know that removing that and which from these sentences will make them more natural, but if you had to use one of them which one would it be?

    3) There are books that explain clearly the usage of tenses.
    4) There are books which explain clearly the usage of tenses.

    Also, which one of the above is natural?
    As you suggest, in 1) and 2), more often than not it would be more natural to omit the relative pronoun as it is in complement position. The choice of relative pronouns has not yet been extensively enough researched for anyone to state that, for a defining relative clause like the above four, the choice of that rather than which (or vice versa)is ungrammatical.

    For 1) and 2) I would prefer omission or else that. But only a much wider context would make my choice decisive. The same goes for 3) and 4).

    One reassuring fact is that for defining relative clauses like the above, in North American speech, it's nearly always that that prevails.

    So if you want to be safe, use that in defining relative clauses (and which in non-defining ones.) In any case, it sounds more natural. But if you do use which, no-one will ever accuse you of being ungrammatical because, as I said, this distinction is not to be found in the grammar books.*

    *N. Malan, La proposition relative en anglais contemporain, Ophrys Gap/Paris, 1999.


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    #4

    Re: that vs which

    daemon99:
    When you look at these two sentences and try to decide, 'that or which', what goes through your mind? How are you trying to decide? Tell us in your own words why you think it should be 'that'...or 'which.

    1) All the information needed is there in the document that I sent you yesterday.
    2) All the information needed is there in the document which I sent you yesterday.

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    #5

    Re: that vs which

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    daemon99:
    When you look at these two sentences and try to decide, 'that or which', what goes through your mind? How are you trying to decide? Tell us in your own words why you think it should be 'that'...or 'which.

    1) All the information needed is there in the document that I sent you yesterday.
    2) All the information needed is there in the document which I sent you yesterday.
    This a nice approach, David. It'd be heaven if the teachers on this site would follow your lead.

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    #6

    Re: that vs which

    Well, David, I'd generally use that in such sentences. I've never thought of the reason; I just use it, that's all.

    Now that you have asked me why I use that instead of which, I'd say I use it because I know which document I am talking about.

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    #7

    Re: that vs which

    Quote Originally Posted by daemon99 View Post
    Well, David, I'd generally use that in such sentences. I've never thought of the reason; I just use it, that's all.

    Now that you have asked me why I use that instead of which, I'd say I use it because I know which document I am talking about.
    Exactly.

    But the defining/non-defining distinction is more punctiliously observed in Am. English; and by (as David Crystal says in The Stories of English) 'the pedants who program our spellchecking software'. (Try to sneak "which" past WinWord, without a preceding comma to make it non-defining, and the spellchecker will slap your wrist.)

    b


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    #8

    Re: that vs which

    daemon99: Now that you have asked me why I use 'that' instead of 'which', I'd say I use it because I know which document I am talking about.

    All the information needed is there in the document.

    Up to there, you don't! It's only when "that I sent you yesterday" is added, that it tells you, of all the documents on your desk from all the people you deal with; with all the documents you have ever received from me over the years, that you know EXACTLY the document I mean - the one I sent you yesterday. Whenever the clause IDENTIFIES something more precisely, so that it's not just any document, not just any book, but a PARTICULAR book, then use 'that'.
    compare:
    All the information needed is there in the document, which I hope you find helpful.
    'which I hope..." is a pleasant remark, but won't help you find the particular document on your desktop!

    BUT SOMETHING IS STILL WRONG HERE.
    You write, "I'd say I use it because I know which document I am talking about" - you know what I've just been talking about already - yet you started the thread with the words:
    But I still can't make out the difference between the usages of that and which.

    So - can you give examples of where you get confused. Maybe do one of the quizzes, and give us examples of the ones you get wrong.

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    #9

    Re: that vs which

    Hi daemon

    1) All the information needed is there in the document that I sent you yesterday.

    If you want to use which you'll need to use a comma:
    ...in the document, which (by the way) I sent you yesterday.
    3) There are books that explain clearly the usage of tenses.

    Using which won't work above:

    ?There are books, which, by the way, explain clearly ...

    The problem, everything that comes after the first comma is additional info, so you should be able to delete it without changing the meaning of the sentence. The result, "There are books"--not the meaning you want.
    _______________________________________
    that vs which (There are books that/which explain clearly the usage of tenses.)

    Exception to the Rule
    Like a number of grammatical rules in English as well as other languages, this one has an exception. The exception should only be used when a sentence has more than one dependent clause or when “that” has been used in another role. Take a look at the following example.

    That idea, which has been discussed thoroughly, no longer needs to be addressed.

    If “this,” “that,” “these,” or “those” has already been used to either as an adjective or to introduce the first clause, use “which” to introduce the next one, whether the information is essential or nonessential.

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    #10

    Re: that vs which

    Thank you guys!

    Can I safely assume that I should use which when I want to supply some extra information about something and use that when I know which object I am talking about?

    Does this rule hold good for who vs that as well?

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