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  • Category: Improve Your English

    That vs which - when to use these pronouns

    I would like some English guidance on when to use the pronoun 'that' and when to use the pronoun 'which'. Taking an example from a recent announcement, which of the following is correct:

    The management is happy to note that the discussion topics which are posted on ISC are often ranked high on search engines.
    OR
    The management is happy to note that the discussion topics that are posted on ISC are often ranked high on search engines.

    I would also like some more examples in varied scenarios to differentiate between the usage of the two pronouns.
  • #574631
    The second option is correct - "The management is happy to note that the discussion topics that are posted on ISC are often ranked high on search engines." The experts can perhaps correct me, if I am wrong.
    A fool will always try to make sense of his nonsense!

  • #574633
    I too would think that the second usage seems to be correct from my point of view.
    Live....and Let Live...!

  • #574635
    The management is happy to note that the discussion topics posted on ISC are often ranked high on search engines.
    Regards,
    Naresh Kumar
    'Every bad situation will have something positive. Even a dead clock shows correct time twice a day.'

  • #574637
    My attempt:-
    1. The school management is very happy that the performance of the school has attracted the attention of people.
    2. The school management is dealing with the issue which became the headline of the newspaper.

    “Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.” - Paul Terry

  • #574639
    Though I am not an expert in English, but according to the Wren and Martin book both the statements are correct as both "which" and "that" can be used to refer to things. In our case, the thing is "discussion topics". According to Wren and Martin English Grammar book, "which" can be referred to animals and things without life and "that" can be referred to persons and things.

  • #574640
    Both 'that' and 'which' are used to represent things. In some cases both 'that' and 'which' appears to be correct.

    In general both 'that' and 'which' has different usage. 'That' should be used with the restrictive clauses and 'Which' should be used with the non-restrictive clauses.

    Restrictive clause- represents only the identity of the subject. It restricts or speaks about the particular subject.

    Non-restrictive clause- represents something about the subject but it does not define the subject. Usually non-restrictive clause should be written with commas. It does not speak about the particular subject instead it focuses on the non-limiting information about the subject i.e. among all the things

    Restrictive Usage: The pen that was in the pen stand was stolen.
    Explanation: The sentence gives the meaning that the only pen that was in the pen stand was stolen. Here 'that' can be used if the pen stand has only one pen in it. 'That' should not be used if the pen stand contains many pens.

    Non-restrictive Usage: The pen, which was in the pen stand, was stolen.
    Explanation: The sentence gives the meaning that among all the pens in the pen stand, a pen was stolen. Here 'which' represents many pens in the pen stand and it speaks about a particular pen that was stolen among all the pens but it does not represent which of the several pens was stolen.

    In some cases both restrictive and non restrictive clauses can be used together.

    Both Restrictive and Non-restrictive Usage: The red color pen that was in the pen stand, which I purchased yesterday for Rs.5, was stolen.
    Explanation: The restrictive clause starting with 'that' represents that there was only one red color in the pen stand and that it was stolen. The non-restrictive clause starting with 'which' does not limit the possibilities to the red color pen that was in the pen stand.

    So based on the usage of that and which, I think the following sentence is correct. "The management is happy to note that the discussion topics, which are posted on ISC, are often ranked high on search engines".

    Explanation: If the forum has one topic then 'that 'can be used but the ISC forum contains many discussion topics and among all the discussion topics some of the topics are often ranked high on search engines and so I think 'Which' is the apt usage.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • #574641
    I am sharing what I have learnt and understand about the subject matter from the various internet resources.
    The simple rule is that the 'that' is used in restrictive clauses and 'which' in used in nonrestrictive clauses.
    Let us consider the sentence -
    The management is happy to note that the discussion topics 'that are posted on ISC' are often ranked high on search engines.
    In the above sentence the clause 'that are posted on ISC' restricts the scope of the sentence -
    'The management is happy to note that the discussion topics are often ranked high on search engines'.

    Let us take another example-
    Any dress 'that you like' must be decent,
    In the above sentence, the clause - 'that you like' is a restrictive clause limiting the scope of the sentence- 'Any dress must be decent'.

    An example of a sentence containing a nonrestrictive clause is as follows-
    The dress, 'which I bought at the local shopping mall', was a real eye-catcher
    In the above sentence, the clause - 'which I bought at the local shopping mall' is nonrestrictive in nature as it is adding extra information to the original sentence.
    However, basically being a science student, I often find many elucidations about language grammar avoidable complications.

    Let us encourage each other in sharing knowledge.

  • #574654
    The word 'that' is a demonstrative determiner or demonstrative adjective; it is used to tell which thing or person you mean.
    The word 'that' is used to indicate people or things those are farther from you.
    'That' is a singular noun; its plural is 'those'

    Ex: Who is that man?
    That is right.
    What's that noise?
    What's that animal?

    The word 'Which' is an interrogative determiner or interrogative adjective used before nouns to ask about people and things.

    Ex: Which school do you go to?
    Which runner is the winner in Rio Olympic?
    Do you know which author won the prize in ISC TOW?
    Which twin is taller?

    Regards,
    Naresh Kumar
    'Every bad situation will have something positive. Even a dead clock shows correct time twice a day.'

  • #574666
    Which and That are Relative pronouns. What the grammar book says is this:
    Which is used for things without life and for animals. It may refer to a singular or a plural noun.
    That is used for persons and things. It may refer to a singular or a plural noun.
    However, we do not misunderstand a sentence in which the relative prounoun which or that appears. We don't get confused.

    At times, we can omit the relative pronoun.
    For e.g - For 'Lengthy is the response that we give' We can write ' Lengthy is the response we give'.
    "We should write the things that we think " should be "We should write the things we think'.

    Similarly in your second sentence, which /that can be omitted and written as - "The management is happy to note that the discussion topics posted on ISC are often ranked high on search engines." ( I appreciate Naresh Kumar's response posted in this thread)

    No life without Sun ¤

  • #574670
    @ Soundharya

    Consider the following sentence - "The management is happy to note that the discussion topics that are posted on ISC are often ranked high on search engines." Do you not see the phrase 'that are posted on ISC' as explicitly defining the object 'discussion topics' making it a restrictive clause?

    "If the forum has one topic then 'that 'can be used but the ISC forum contains many discussion topics and among all the discussion topics some of the topics are often ranked high on search engines and so I think 'Which' is the apt usage." Restrictive and non-restrictive clauses have nothing to do with quantities. How did you come to that conclusion? Your response contradicts the definition of restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. If we go by the definition then your final conclusion is incorrect.

    @ Vandana

    Here is an explanation on why the use of the pronoun 'which' in the sentence under discussion, is incorrect. A phrase using 'which' is used to supplement what is being said – it is a parenthesis, providing additional information. However, the text remains complete even if the phrase is deleted, since it is a non-restrictive clause.

    If you delete the phrase 'which are posted on ISC' from the sentence you will be left with – The management is happy to note that the discussion topics are often ranked high on search engines. The sentence does not indicate that ISC is being discussed. The sentence refers to every discussion on every forum. Conversely, the use of 'that' in the same sentence gives a clearer picture of what is being conveyed - the discussion topics are specific to ISC.

    A fool will always try to make sense of his nonsense!

  • #574672
    I still stand by my response in which I have said both "which" and "that" can be used in the above sentence. Though "that" should be used in restrictive clauses, "which" can be used in both restrictive and non-restrictive clauses.
    Both the following sentences are correct
    1) The pen which was given to you was bought in USA (Here the meaning of the sentence is I have several pens and out them I have given you one)
    2) The pen, which was given to you, was bought in USA (Here the meaning is I have only one pen and I given that one to you)

    In sentence (1) You can replace "which" with "that" but it is not possible in case of sentence (2).
    There is no any such restriction that "which" should always be preceded by a comma.

  • #574871
    I am a little confused with Bhuvaneswara Rao's response in #574672. Does the presence of a comma punctuation preceding the word 'which' change the meaning of the sentence? I mean that if you had not put the explanation in parentheses, does it not look as though both the sentences mean the same thing?
    Regards,
    Vandana
    Managing Editor, IndiaStudyChannel.com

  • #574873
    Vandana ma'am,
    Yes, there is little bit of difference between putting a comma and not putting a comma before "which".
    I will give you one more example using the relative pronoun "who"
    My mother, who is a doctor, is returning from USA today.
    As I can't have more than one mother, we should not exclude the comma before "who". If we exclude the comma, it will mean I have more than one mother.
    Same is applicable to "which" in similar kind of sentences.

    (Update : Strictly speaking, if we excluded the comma before "who", it would mean, out many mothers, the doctor mother is returning from USA. Generally, such a scenario won't exist in real life. So, we have to use comma.
    Take another example,
    1. My brother who is a doctor is returning from USA today. Here, I have many brothers and out of those brothers, my doctor brother is returning from USA. Such a scenario can exist real life.
    2. My brother, who is a doctor, is returning from USA today. Here I have only one brother and that doctor brother is returning from USA. Such a scenario can exist in real life)


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