Japan has a train that/which can run with the speed of 600 mph.

kanu

Senior Member
Please tell me

Japan has a train which can run with the speed of 600 mph.

Japan has a train that can run with the speed of 600 mph.

In my opinion both are acceptable but will give preference to which.
 
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Japan has a train which can run with the speed of 600 mph.

    Japan has a train that can run with the speed of 600 mph.

    In my opinion both are acceptable but will give preference to which.
    In my opinion, the first is not correct, since your meaning requires what is grammatically called a restrictive clause, and a restrictive clause requires the use of that.

    An easy way to remember what to use in such cases: If you could put a comma before the word, and the sentence would still make sense, use which. If it would not make sense, use that.

    So, inserting a comma: Japan has a train, which can run . . . Meaning that Japan has only one train. I don't think that's so. Therefore, the correct word is that. And we say "at", not "with", a particular speed. So your sentence should read:

    Japan has a train that can run at the speed of 600 mph.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In my opinion, the first is not correct, since your meaning requires what is grammatically called a restrictive clause, and a restrictive clause requires the use of that.
    What's wrong with using which as a restrictive relative pronoun?

    A lot of people would say that it is fine, or at least go as far to say it's widely used (Like in this book (quote), #2 p.65-67, #3 p.123-129, etc)
    I've always considered the very prescriptive authoritarian stance demanding that the difference exists, quite arbitrary. It's written in most books but not really reflective of how we speak. There are some restrictions on it (see last corpus study for details on restrictive-which restrictions), but it's certainly possible. The second source I quoted has an excellent analysis of it (also see the graph on page 73, which shows restrictive-which prevalent in academia).

    Just thought I'd throw in my (probably unwelcome) $0.02
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Please tell me

    Japan has a train which can run with the speed of 600 mph.

    Japan has a train that can run with the speed of 600 mph.

    In my opinion both are acceptable but will give preference to which.
    I agree with Alx: both are possible.

    In AmE, however, some people dislike the construction with "which".

    In BrE, both are possible, but "which" is more formal than "that".

    There are many, many previous threads!:D
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Just before this thread gets closed, I'll add my observation: it's the presence or absence of a comma that makes it restrictive or not. That is common to both AmE and BrE. The choice of that or which as the joining word is secondary once the comma is present or absent but only, apparently, in BrE. AmE speakers seem to require which in some cases and that in others.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    When referring to objects, though, the rule for using “that” and “which” correctly is simple:
    • THAT should be used to introduce a restrictive clause.
    • WHICH should be used to introduce a non-restrictive or parenthetical clause.
    Is it simple?
    This is precisely what I disagreed with, and other BE speakers were in agreement.
    For learners of English taking tests I understand it is the rule they will be marked against, but it is certainly not a descriptive rule about how we use those words.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Is it simple?
    This is precisely what I disagreed with, and other BE speakers were in agreement.
    For learners of English taking tests I understand it is the rule they will be marked against, but it is certainly not a descriptive rule about how we use those words.
    I agree (from a BrE perspective). A non-restrictive (or parenthetical) clause is preceded by a comma (and also followed by one if it is not the last clause), while a restrictive one has no comma. There is no need for a rule about that/which if the comma dictates the outcome. One just needs to know where the test is being adjudicated whether one must follow the AmE rule or not.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    From the very many previous threads on this topic, and from the reference sources quoted in them...

    If the clause is restrictive, either "that" or "which" is acceptable, but people who choose to use the relative pronouns differently will insist on using "that".
    The clause is not marked by commas.

    If the clause is non-restrictive, use "which".
    The clause is bracketed by commas.

    I am not aware of any AE/BE difference in this.
     

    Languagethinkerlover

    Senior Member
    English-British and U.S.
    From the very many previous threads on this topic, and from the reference sources quoted in them...

    If the clause is restrictive, either "that" or "which" is acceptable, but people who choose to use the relative pronouns differently will insist on using "that".
    The clause is not marked by commas.

    If the clause is non-restrictive, use "which".
    The clause is bracketed by commas.

    I am not aware of any AE/BE difference in this.
    I am not aware of any AE/BE difference either. Can posters from the U.S. please clarify if they also agree that there is an AE/BE difference and if they have a problem with using 'which' over 'that?'

    I would like to make sure of this because I do not believe that it is true.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    If the clause is restrictive, either "that" or "which" is acceptable, but people who choose to use the relative pronouns differently will insist on using "that".
    The clause is not marked by commas.
    The reason I attributed a AmE/BrE distinction above was because I had never met a person who chose to use them differently (and therefore insisted on "that") until I came to the US. Perhaps I just never met the BrE speaker/writers who insisted on same in my first few decades of life, in England. Just lucky, I guess :D
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This might be useful.
    The dispute mainly concerns restrictive clauses: in informal American speech and in formal and informal British English that or which are both commonly (and apparently arbitrarily) used, but in formal American English it is generally recommended to use only that,[4] or to reduce to a zero clause. This rule was recommended in 1926 by H.W. Fowler, who observed, "Some there are who follow this principle now; but it would be idle to pretend that it is the practice either of most or of the best writers."[5] Some academics, such as Stanford linguist Arnold Zwicky, maintain it is "a silly idea,"[6] but most professional writers adhere to it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_relative_clauses#That_and_which
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
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