1. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    "that" or "which"? Define or describe?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by eclipsenow, Sep 22, 2012.

    Help! I still don't get it, even after reading this chapter of my book a few times. Are there any rules that will help my pore, tired old brain learn the difference between defining and describing? When do I use that and when do I use which?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    google 'that vs which' for all the info you need, to learn how to use them...
     
  3. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I page I found using google suggests using "that" for restrictive clauses, and "which" for unrestrictive.

    A restrictive clause would be:

    The cake that you ate last night was supposed to have been my birthday cake.

    There are many cakes, and the restrictive clause "that you ate last night" identifies the cake in question. Hence "that" is used, and there are no commas.

    An unrestrictive clause would be:

    The Great Sphinx at Giza, which is one of Egypt's best known tourist attractions, is a limestone statue.

    There is only one Great Sphinx at Giza, so the "which is one of Egypt's best known tourist attractions" is an unrestrictive clause as it does not further identify the subject.

    Hence "which" is used, and the unrestrictive clause is surrounded by commas.

    The online sources I found said that this rule is not followed religiously, and that some people will use "which" and "that" interchangeably. But that there was no new rule that had emerged to replace the old one.

    Is this correct?
     
  4. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    That's a good description and helps me understand restrictive and unrestrictive better than the examples I was reading in my book. But Mark Tredinnick suggested quite strongly that we use the utilitarian word that for restrictive, and which for unrestrictive. He was quite passionate about it. Apparently there's a bit of an American trend to substitute which for that, and he's against it. (Mark is an Australian writer who teaches creative writing at the University of Sydney).
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm american and i am very strict with my mentees and clients over the misuse of 'which' for 'that'... i know of no 'american trend to substitute' one for the other... bad writing/poor grammar is bad writing/poor grammar, no matter what country you're in/from...
     

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