Grammar Guru: “That” Or “Which”?


Difference between that and which by our grammar guru

Come with the Grammar Guru on a misconception-busting journey through the English language. This week, it’s the turn of “that” versus “which”.

Some believe “that” and “which” to be completely interchangeable. But this is not so!

Known as relative pronouns, both of these words add information to a sentence.

But how do you know the correct one to use?

There is a simple rule to help you here. Memorise it, and you’ll use the wrong word again! (Well, in this particular instance, anyway . . .)

In a defining (or restrictive) clause, use “that”. In non-defining (or non-restrictive) clauses, use “which”.

And what, you may ask, is a defining clause? It gives information essential to the meaning of the sentence.

For example:

“Joe pointed to the foot that was hurt.”

In this sentence, “that” introduces essential information about the noun that comes before it – the “foot”.

A non-defining clause introduces information that could be left out of the sentence without affecting the meaning.

For example: “Joe picked up his bag, which contained his packed lunch.” In this sentence, leaving out the clause about the packed lunch results in a sentence that contains less information but still makes sense.

A handy clue: a non-defining clause is often preceded by a comma, suggesting the information is supplementary. A comma should not precede a defining clause, suggesting that the information is needed. Simple!

For more from the Grammar Guru, click the tag below.

Are you a fiction fan? Read our Daily Serial — it’s something nice to look forward to every day!

Angela Gilchrist

I am the former Editor-in-Chief of “The People’s Friend” magazine. My passions include cats, Highland ponies, good books, vegetarian food and long walks in the Scottish countryside. My favourite place to get away from it all is the magical Isle of Skye.

Grammar Guru: “That” Or “Which”?

Difference between that and which by our grammar guru

Come with the Grammar Guru on a misconception-busting journey through the English language. This week, it’s the turn of “that” versus “which”.

Some believe “that” and “which” to be completely interchangeable. But this is not so!

Known as relative pronouns, both of these words add information to a sentence.

But how do you know the correct one to use?

There is a simple rule to help you here. Memorise it, and you’ll use the wrong word again! (Well, in this particular instance, anyway . . .)

In a defining (or restrictive) clause, use “that”. In non-defining (or non-restrictive) clauses, use “which”.

And what, you may ask, is a defining clause? It gives information essential to the meaning of the sentence.

For example:

“Joe pointed to the foot that was hurt.”

In this sentence, “that” introduces essential information about the noun that comes before it – the “foot”.

A non-defining clause introduces information that could be left out of the sentence without affecting the meaning.

For example: “Joe picked up his bag, which contained his packed lunch.” In this sentence, leaving out the clause about the packed lunch results in a sentence that contains less information but still makes sense.

A handy clue: a non-defining clause is often preceded by a comma, suggesting the information is supplementary. A comma should not precede a defining clause, suggesting that the information is needed. Simple!

For more from the Grammar Guru, click the tag below.

Are you a fiction fan? Read our Daily Serial — it’s something nice to look forward to every day!

RELATED READS

Roses beside a calendar block showing February 29 for Leap Year Fiction

The History and Meaning of Leap Years

How To Plot Your Short Story Writing Tools

How To Plot Your Short Story

The same view of a tree-lined park in each season Writing Tools

When To Submit Seasonal Stories To The People’s Friend

Hand holding a green tick icoon

All About Our Short Story Word Counts