Who vs. that vs. which
On January 1, 2013 | 4 Comments | Grammar tips, News & Events, Writing tips |

I see “who,” “that,” and “which” used incorrectly pretty much every day, so I thought it was worth a blog post to clear up the confusion. Here we go:

Who refers to people:

  • She is a person who cares about others.
  • You are an author who needs to understand the importance of good grammar.
  • We need to hire someone who can get the job done quickly.

That is used for animals and inanimate objects:

  • They have one of those little dogs that can jump high and catch Frisbees.
  • She works for a fun company that provides free lunch every day.
  • Math is a subject that always gave me a lot of trouble in high school.

Which is used for animals and inanimate objects only when it appears at the beginning of a dependent clause (set off by commas), OR when you’ve already used that in the same sentence, OR if it’s preceded by a preposition.

  • I saw a documentary that featured a company which was about to go bankrupt.
  • His position, which I don’t think is valid, is that he was acting ethically when he fired her.
  • I’m sorry to be so blunt, but this job is one for which you’re simply not qualified.

I know it looks like a lot to swallow, but the rules are pretty straightforward if you stick to them. In a future post, I’ll address who vs. whom and whoever vs. whomever. I know those are also a mystery to many people.

Happy New Year!


This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.


Comments 4
Elaine Bedigian Posted September 15, 2014 at6:52 pm   Reply

At times, these three words give me pain, and I have to look up rules to make the proper choice. Think I’ll just post this info on my corkboard. Thanks so much!

Maria Murnane Posted October 29, 2014 at3:39 pm   Reply

You’re very welcome! 🙂

Nancy Churney Posted October 29, 2014 at12:21 pm   Reply

Great advice! I’ve made many notes from several of your posts!!! Can’t wait to re-edit my work AGAIN!!!
Thanks for your wonderful advice and knowledge!

Maria Murnane Posted October 29, 2014 at3:40 pm   Reply

Ha ha I’m glad to be of service! 🙂

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