[DISCLAIMER: My grammar advice is trustworthy for American English. Not so much if you’re in the UK. Please keep that in mind.]
Edited February 5, 2015 – Added reference to source of British usage rule.
The words “That” and “Which” are two of the most confusing words writers come face-to-face with every day.
Some of you are familiar with a grammar tip I share on Twitter:
That/Which: ‘That’ should introduce a restrictive clause (necessary for meaning). ‘Which’ is for non-restrictive (parentheticals)”
When limited to 150 characters, the whole “that vs. which” thing can seem somewhat cryptic. What the heck is a restrictive clause? What do I mean by “Parentheticals”? I think a couple of quick examples will make it easier to understand.
Wait! What About People?
The guy who drives the Impala was here yesterday.
The phrase “who drives the Impala” is identifying. Without it we have no idea which “guy” the speaker is talking about! Therefore we’re dealing with a restrictive clause.
Mr Smith, who drives the Impala, was here yesterday.
The phrase “who drives the Impala”, in this case, is non-identifying, and therefore non-restrictive. The reference to the Impala is nothing more than additional information. The subject has already been identified specifically as “Mr. Smith”. Also…look at those beautiful commas![Edit: 2/5/2015] I’d like to thank “Ben Morris tweeting” for the following reference. Those of you curious about the British English usage should definitely check this out.
— Ben Morris tweeting (@benmtwt) February 5, 2015
What are some of the more confusing word usages you struggle with every day? Let me know in the comments below!
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