Tags:
  1. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    4,778
    Likes Received:
    3,230
    Location:
    England

    Rules you'll NEVER get the hang of

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Jul 20, 2019.

    It doesn't matter how many times I ask the question, or how many explanations I'm given, I will never ever, for the life of me, understand the whole 'that' vs 'who' vs 'which' ruling.

    i.e "It was Bob who/that said it, not me."
    i.e "I just want public-domain books that/which are not read (very badly) by librivox volunteers."
     
  2. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,494
    Likes Received:
    15,038
    Location:
    Scotland
    I have struggled for years with the that/which thing. I think I'm FINALLY getting the hang of it, but still have to stop and think. I tackle it like this:

    Use 'that' when the information that follows is crucial to the meaning of the sentence.
    All our books that are about dogs are on the top shelf. (In other words, if you want books about dogs, the top shelf is the only place you'll find them. Books about dogs won't be on any other shelves. We use the other shelves for other kinds of books.)

    Use 'which' when the information could be removed without changing the basic meaning of the sentence.
    All our books, which are about dogs, are on the top shelf. (Meaning all our books are stored on the top shelf. You won't find books anywhere else in the house. And, by the way, all our books are about dogs.)

    In both of these cases you have to think a bit. It's not a grammatical issue really; it's more of a meaning issue. Both of the sentences are grammatically correct, but they mean different things.

    You can often leave 'that (are)' out altogether. If you wrote All our books about dogs are on the top shelf, the meaning of the sentence would be the same as in the first sample.

    However, removing the 'which (are)' from the second sample does affect the meaning.

    I devised a little trick. If I can say 'by the way,' that means I should use 'which.' All our books, which, by the way, are about dogs, are on the top shelf.


    Use 'who' when you are referring to a person. (That's the easiest one of the three; if it's a person or people, it's always 'who'—never 'that' or 'which.')

    ...........

    I just acquired a really fascinating and very usable book on these kinds of topics. It's called Say What? The Fiction Writer's Handy Guide to Grammar, Punctuation and Word Usage, by CS Lakin.

    I would recommend buying the printed copy rather than a Kindle edition, though, because you'll want to be able to page forward and backward quite easily when you're looking for specific issues.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
  3. Night Herald

    Night Herald Have you seen the Yellow Sign? Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 23, 2012
    Messages:
    798
    Likes Received:
    1,250
    Location:
    Norway
    I'm not in the habit of saying never, but I have yet to figure out the who/whom thing. There are certain words I habitually misspell. I'm sure there are many other examples, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.

    At the moment, the one thing I feel is truly hopeless is learning to conjugate Italian verbs.
     
    OurJud likes this.
  4. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,494
    Likes Received:
    15,038
    Location:
    Scotland
    Who and whom are still stumpers for me. I probably screw those up as much or more than anything else. The thing is, what sounds right often isn't. :(
     
    Night Herald likes this.
  5. suddenly BANSHEES

    suddenly BANSHEES Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2011
    Messages:
    384
    Likes Received:
    141
    Location:
    the wasteland, baby!
    It's a good thing language is constantly evolving and changing. So long as you're getting your point across, to heck with the rules!

    ...Unless you're writing a paper or academic article. In which case, good luck I guess. :wtf:
     
  6. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    4,908
    Likes Received:
    8,381
    Location:
    The great white north.
    The difference between "who" and "whom" is basically the same difference between "he" and "him."

    Who took it? -- He took it.
    It was taken by whom? -- It was taken by him.
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,494
    Likes Received:
    15,038
    Location:
    Scotland
    I can tie myself in knots sometimes, in certain sentences, getting it right. It bothers me because it doesn't come naturally to me to do it right. I have to think about it every time. The old "Whom shall I say is calling?" thing. That's WRONG. But it doesn't sound wrong when a posh person says it! :)

    And which of these two phrases sounds like what you'd actually hear spoken?

    Whom are you going to invite?
    Who are you going to invite?

    Aaargh....
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
    OurJud and The Dapper Hooligan like this.
  8. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    924
    Likes Received:
    1,020
    Or "they" and "them"

    Who took it? They took it.
    It was taken by whom? It was taken by them.
     
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    12,271
    Likes Received:
    14,054
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    If you apply the he/him rule its whom ... Are you going to invite he ? Nah
     
    jannert likes this.
  10. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    4,778
    Likes Received:
    3,230
    Location:
    England
    That's exactly how I feel about the whole 'that' vs 'who' vs 'which' thing. It annoys and frustrates me because it won't sink in, and then that in itself annoys me; why won't it sink in? I must have written sentences that employ their use thousands and thousands of times, and yet...

    I've read your own explanation to the rule dozens of times from various different sources, but it makes my brain itch when I try to understand what's being said. It's like there's a wall - the explanation gets as far as my retinas, then dissolves.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
    jannert likes this.
  11. lonelystar

    lonelystar Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2018
    Messages:
    101
    Likes Received:
    52
    Mine issue is the it's/its/it is debate.
    All explanations welcome
     
  12. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    4,778
    Likes Received:
    3,230
    Location:
    England
    It's is an abbreviation for it is

    It's
    cold outside (It is cold outside)

    Its
    is the possessive for an object

    The sea will not reveal its secrets
     
    jannert likes this.
  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    4,916
    Likes Received:
    8,574
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Pfft, in 2019? Nobody cares. There, their, they're? Completely interchangeable. Then and than... go with what you feel. And nevermind its, it's, your, and you're.

    World is going down the shitter, and I, for one, can't wait to be flushed.
     
    jannert likes this.
  14. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    4,908
    Likes Received:
    8,381
    Location:
    The great white north.
    [​IMG]
     
    Baeraad likes this.
  15. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2017
    Messages:
    290
    Likes Received:
    254
    Location:
    France
    I find conjugating Italian verbs tricky too.

    I don't write or speak Italian though.
     
    Iain Aschendale and Night Herald like this.
  16. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,494
    Likes Received:
    15,038
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yeah, I know. It's just annoying that I actually have to THINK about it, or I'll get it wrong. I would have thought, after 70 years of speaking English, that this sort of thing would come naturally to me. But no.

    And try this one. Who is it? Whom is it? (It's he. It's him.) Aaargh....
     
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    12,271
    Likes Received:
    14,054
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    That'd be Who

    he's it not him's it - they don't work as questions but the principal still holds
     
  18. Earp

    Earp Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2016
    Messages:
    1,504
    Likes Received:
    3,305
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Who is it?

    It is I, Luigi!

    - or -

    It's me.
     
    jannert likes this.
  19. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    502
    Likes Received:
    858
    Possessive pronouns never get apostrophes: hers, theirs, ours, its, etc. Even the weird ones . . . his, whose.

    That/which isn't as important as it's made out to be. There is a baseline (which gets the comma), but it is ignored all the time, so it's not much of a rule. It's kind of like having the speed limit at 55 mph, but you can go 90 if you feel like it, and the grammar police (whoever they are) just shrug. So can you even call it a rule? The only distinction about that/which which is always true (i.e., counter-examples are errors) is that "that" never appears with the comma.

    Our cat, that has been missing for a week, has resurfaced in Buenos Aires. (wrong)

    But which escapes the comma whenever it feels poetic.

    A day which will live in infamy. -- W Churchill
    That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. -- Nietzsche

    That/which is the most enduring relic of the King's English eggheads from the 19th century. A lot of their other decrees are laughed at (don't end in a preposition, don't split infinitives), but this one has dug in like a barnyard tick. They even teach it in schools, but the pros don't worry about it too much. The use idea within it is in understanding its purpose, which comes down to consistency in phrasing. There's some value in that idea. Some.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
    Malisky and OurJud like this.
  20. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    4,916
    Likes Received:
    8,574
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Best. Writing. Prompt. Ever.
     

Share This Page