Who vs. Which vs. That (Revised 10/29/12. Please see “Who vs. That” and “That vs. Which.”)
Rule: Who refers to people. That and which refer to groups or things.
Example: Anya is the one who rescued the bird.
Example: Lope is on the team that won first place.
Example: She belongs to an organization that specializes in saving endangered species.
Rule: That introduces essential clauses while which introduces nonessential clauses.
Example: I do not trust editorials that claim racial differences in intelligence.
We would not know which editorials were being discussed without the that clause.
Example: The editorial claiming racial differences in intelligence, which appeared in the Sunday newspaper, upset me.
The editorial is already identified. Therefore, which begins a nonessential clause.
NOTE: Essential clauses do not have commas surrounding them while nonessential clauses are surrounded by commas.
Rule: Do not use that twice in a row in a sentence.
Example: That is a problem which can’t be solved without a calculator.
The above sentence would be better written as follows:
That problem can’t be solved without a calculator.
Example: That is a promise which cannot be broken.
Again, the above sentence could be rewritten:
That promise cannot be broken.
Rule: Whenever you have more than one that or which in a sentence, see if you can rewrite it in a way that both shortens your sentence and removes at least one that or which.
Rule: Put that in the sentence when it is implied.
Example: Did you know he went to the University of Florida? OR
Did you know that he went to the University of Florida? (Correct)
Posted on Saturday, May 10th, 2008, at 1:21 am