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'Which' vs 'That' Debate

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'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 21 Jul 2014, 23:14
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In this post I would like to talk about restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, about ‘which’ and ‘that’, about when to use a comma and some other such things.

First of all, it is NOT necessary that ‘which’ has to be preceded by a comma. Just because you see a ‘which’ clause without commas, it does not mean the option is wrong.

To understand the uses of ‘which’ and ‘that’, we need to understand defining and non-defining relative clauses.

What is a Relative Clause?

It is the clause that begins with a relative pronoun (who, which, that, whom, whose)! We use relative clauses to clarify which person or thing we are talking about or to add extra information about a noun.

For example:
My father, who is 70, goes running every day.
My youngest son, whose work takes him all over the world, is coming home tomorrow.
My son who works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow.
I’m going to wear the shirt that I bought in Paris.

The relative clauses have been underlined. Note that some are surrounded by commas and some are not.
The ones that are not surrounded by commas clarify which person or thing we are talking about. These are defining relative clauses.
The ones that are surrounded by commas provide extra information about a noun. They are called non-defining relative clauses.

Defining relative clauses:

They define the noun. What do we mean by that? Let’s see.

Example: My son who works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow.
‘My son who works for a consultancy’ implies that I probably have more than one son and one of them works for a consultancy. He is the one who is coming.

Example: I’m going to wear the shirt that I bought in Paris.
‘the shirt that I bought in Paris’ defines the shirt. I have many shirts but I am going to wear the one I bought in Paris.

- Defining relative clauses can begin with ‘who’, ‘which’ or ‘that’. You use ‘who’ or ‘that’ for people and ‘which’ or ‘that’ for things.
For example: All the sentences given below are correct.
My son who works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow.
I’m going to wear the shirt which I bought in Paris.
I’m going to wear the shirt that I bought in Paris.

- Also, sometimes you can omit the relative pronoun of defining relative clauses. When the relative pronoun acts as the object of the relative clause, you can omit the relative pronoun.

Example: I’m going to wear the shirt I bought in Paris.- Correct
‘shirt’ here is the object of the verb ‘bought’. The relative clause is ‘I bought the shirt in Paris.’ The relative pronoun replaces ‘the shirt’ which is the object of this clause.
When the relative pronoun is the subject of the relative clause, you cannot omit it.

Example: My son who works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow. – Incorrect to omit who
‘who’ is the subject of the verb ‘works’. You cannot omit the relative pronoun here.

Non-defining Relative Clauses:

They provide extra information about the noun. In these cases, we already know the person/thing we are talking about.

Example: My father, who is 70, goes running every day.
‘My father’ clearly talks about my father (who we assume is unique). ‘who is 70’ only gives us more information about my father.
Example: My youngest son, whose work takes him all over the world, is coming home tomorrow.
‘My youngest son’ already clarifies that we are talking about my youngest son. ‘whose work…’ only tells us more about him.

- Non defining relative clauses can use most relative pronouns but they cannot use ‘that’. Also, you cannot omit the pronoun.
My father, that is 70, goes running every day. – Incorrect. Cannot use ‘that’
My father, is 70, goes running every day. – Incorrect. Cannot work without the pronoun

I will soon put up some OG questions involving defining and non defining relative clauses.
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Originally posted by VeritasKarishma on 18 Nov 2013, 21:48.
Last edited by VeritasKarishma on 21 Jul 2014, 23:14, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 18 Nov 2013, 23:13
My understanding from MGMAT SC was that "that - modifiers" cant be used to modify people.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Nov 2013, 06:59
ssule wrote:
My understanding from MGMAT SC was that "that - modifiers" cant be used to modify people.


No, they can be used to modify people in defining clauses.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Nov 2013, 19:11
The usage of "that" to refer to people can be acceptable in certain cases in everyday English but we should remember that GMAT SC is only concerned with formal, business type English and in such a case, one should always use "who".

Also, this sentence is definitely wrong, GMAT or otherwise: "My son that works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow."
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Nov 2013, 21:40
kkunal1981 wrote:
The usage of "that" to refer to people can be acceptable in certain cases in everyday English but we should remember that GMAT SC is only concerned with formal, business type English and in such a case, one should always use "who".

Also, this sentence is definitely wrong, GMAT or otherwise: "My son that works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow."


'that' is not often used with people but it is certainly not incorrect to do so.

Check:
http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/ ... ve-clauses
http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/ ... auses.html
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 21 Nov 2013, 12:42
Thank you Karishma for this article - it would be really helpful if you please come up with some official questions on this concept.

And also some OG questions where 'that' has been used to refer to people.

Look forward to it.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Dec 2013, 15:35
Hi!

I wonder about one element:

What is the exact difference (of course for the GMAT) between "Whose" and "Who"?

When do we apply one and the other?

Thank you :)
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Dec 2013, 05:29
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Paris75 wrote:
Hi!

I wonder about one element:

What is the exact difference (of course for the GMAT) between "Whose" and "Who"?

When do we apply one and the other?

Thank you :)


Whose is the possessive form of who.
who is used in the subjective case and whose is used in the possessive case.

The lady whose son you met yesterday is standing there.

Focus on the clause - You met her son yesterday.
'whose' replaces 'her' (possessive) here.

The lady who owns this coffee shop is standing there.

The clause - She owns this coffee shop.
'who' replaces 'she' (subjective) here.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 09 Jan 2014, 23:43
bagdbmba wrote:
Thank you Karishma for this article - it would be really helpful if you please come up with some official questions on this concept.

And also some OG questions where 'that' has been used to refer to people.

Look forward to it.


GMAT does not test 'who' vs 'that'.
For more details on this, check out the relative pronouns section of 'A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik'.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Apr 2014, 10:30
Quote:
- Also, sometimes you can omit the relative pronoun of defining relative clauses. When the relative pronoun acts as the object of the relative clause, you can omit the relative pronoun.

...
...

Example: My son who works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow. – Incorrect
‘who’ is the subject of the verb ‘works’. You cannot omit the relative pronoun here.


That sentence isnt incorrect, right?
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Apr 2014, 20:10
jeffjose wrote:
Quote:
- Also, sometimes you can omit the relative pronoun of defining relative clauses. When the relative pronoun acts as the object of the relative clause, you can omit the relative pronoun.

...
...

Example: My son who works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow. – Incorrect
‘who’ is the subject of the verb ‘works’. You cannot omit the relative pronoun here.


That sentence isnt incorrect, right?


As it is, the sentence is fine. It will be incorrect if we omit 'who'.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 21 Jul 2014, 13:16
VeritasPrepKarishma wrote:
jeffjose wrote:
Quote:
- Also, sometimes you can omit the relative pronoun of defining relative clauses. When the relative pronoun acts as the object of the relative clause, you can omit the relative pronoun.

...
...

Example: My son who works for a consultancy is coming home tomorrow. – Incorrect
‘who’ is the subject of the verb ‘works’. You cannot omit the relative pronoun here.


That sentence isnt incorrect, right?


As it is, the sentence is fine. It will be incorrect if we omit 'who'.


Hi.. You might want to correct/edit this, as in the beginning it says the sentence is correct, while in the end it appears to be calling it incorrect. The intended message about omission of "who" is not clear.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 21 Jul 2014, 23:16
popov wrote:
Hi.. You might want to correct/edit this, as in the beginning it says the sentence is correct, while in the end it appears to be calling it incorrect. The intended message about omission of "who" is not clear.


The sentence is correct in its current form. It would be incorrect to remove 'who' from it. That is the reason it mentions "Incorrect". I have added the words "to remove who" to clarify it further.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Dec 2014, 08:22
Can you please suggest what is the difference between these 2 sentences

I’m going to wear the shirt which I bought in Paris. -- Shirt is not identified which shirt we are talking about ?

I’m going to wear the shirt that I bought in Paris. -- we care talking about a particular shirt ( green shirt) out of many shirts

Is my understanding correct ?
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Dec 2014, 22:35
aashu4uiit wrote:
Can you please suggest what is the difference between these 2 sentences

I’m going to wear the shirt which I bought in Paris. -- Shirt is not identified which shirt we are talking about ?

I’m going to wear the shirt that I bought in Paris. -- we care talking about a particular shirt ( green shirt) out of many shirts

Is my understanding correct ?


Both sentences mean the same - they both have defining relative clauses - one, a which clause, the other, a that clause.
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Re: 'Which' vs 'That' Debate  [#permalink]

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