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  • Category: Improve Your English

    When to use that and when to use which

    Confused about the correct usage of the pronouns that and which? Learn from this English tutorial thread when each of these should be used.

    Not just while contributing my own articles or submitting a forum thread, even while editing, I get a little confused about the correct usage of the word 'that' and the correct usage of the word 'which'. Take this sentence, for example:
    People eat more junk foods that supply high amount of calories.

    Is the word 'that' correctly used here? Or should it be:
    People eat more junk foods which supply high amount of calories.

    I would also like to know if English in the sentence itself is entirely correct. Should there be 'a' before 'high'? Should the word 'foods' be singular?

    Further, with reference to the vocabulary, is this better:
    People eat more junk foods which include a high amount of calories. ('include' instead of the word supply)

    Lots of questions! Can anyone at ISC resolve my confusion?
  • #597095
    I was just happy using the words 'that' and ' which' without any confusion. Now your confusion about that and which has created more confusion. Generally people get confused with words that conveys the same meaning without any confusion. If ISC ME get confused, who on the earth will not be confused? Let someone who never get confused respond to this thread without any confusion. English prepositions are mostly confusing. I would conclude saying that both the words that and which are correct as it is well understood and doesn't convey a different meaning.
    No life without Sun

  • #597097
    A very good post from our ME.
    I feel that 'that' and 'which' convey the same meaning. In British English, 'which' is used, whereas in American English that is used. For example: 'The omega-3 protein, which is good for health, is found in fish' and 'The omega-3 protein, that is good for health, is found in fish' convey the same meaning.
    So far as 'food' is concerned, I think 'food' denotes only one item, whereas the word'foods' indicates different food-items.
    However, this is only personal opinion of a student of Bengali-medium school. I am not 100% sure about the correctness of my opinion.

    Non-violence is the greatest Dharma; So too is all righteous violence.

  • #597125
    I don't think there's a word called "foods". Because food comprises of variety of eatables right? It's kind of a collective noun. So food is both a singular and plural.
    We do use "a little" and "a few" right? So I don't see any problem with "a high".
    Yes you are right. When words like include, contains, consists etc..; are used, "a high" is used instead of high..
    As for the which and that question, grammarians are still fighting over the issue and there's no proper verdict.
    But the popular statement goes like this - use which when there is no emphasis on object. Use that otherwise.

    The stronger a light shines the darker are the shadows around it.

  • #597157

    Omega-3s are not a protein, they are fatty acids.


    In your examples 'that' and 'which' are determiners and not pronouns.

    Use 'that' to introduce a clause that contains vital information about the clause that comes before it.

    Example: People eat more junk food(s) that (provide) supply (a) high amount (?) of calories. Note that the second clause completes the sentence. Without it the sentence would be incomplete – People eat more junk food(s). 'That' is used to add information, which is relevant to the subject and to complete the sentence.

    Use 'which' to connect two independent clauses. It is also used to provide additional information, but if omitted, it does not affect the sentence structure.

    Example: She offered the guest a glass of water, which he refused. The sentence without the second clause is structurally correct – She offered the guest a glass of water.

    Should there be an 'a' before 'high'? Yes, there should be. Article + adjective + noun = A (article) high (adjective) amount (noun).

    Junk food is the correct term because it covers a certain type of food. Food is uncountable, so I would stick with junk food.

    I prefer to use 'offer' and 'provide' instead of 'include' or 'supply'.

    I am also uncertain of the use of the word 'amount'. It should be 'a number' instead of 'amount' – calories are countable. The word amount is used for uncountable nouns.

    • Amount of water (uncountable)
    • Number of people (countable)

    Note: I'm not an expert, but these are my views.

    "A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak" - Michael Garrett Marino

  • #597474
    Thanks a lot Juana for the clarifications. So the better sentence would be:
    People eat more junk food that provide a high amount of calories.
    - I think the word 'offer' (which is the other option you suggested) instead of 'provide' would look out of sync here.

    When people come at you with their worst, you should come at them with your best (advice given to Selena Gomez by her mother, quoted in Time magazine.)

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