people that become ill

Allegro molto

Senior Member

Last week, speaking to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Romney declared that nobody in America dies because he or she is uninsured: "We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance." This followed on an earlier remark by Mr. Romney — echoing an infamous statement by none other than George W. Bush — in which he insisted that emergency rooms provide essential health care to the uninsured.
(from Death by Ideology, October, 14, 2012, the New York Times)

Why is the 'that' used, but not 'who'?

Thank you
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Because sometimes people make mistakes. And sometimes the people that make mistakes are being interviewed while they make those mistakes. (Honestly, it's not that big of a deal in contemporary AE - we do use "that" for "who" quite often.)

    You could argue that things are a little Freudian here (since Mr. Romney might be said to be de-humanizing the very people referred to here with "that"). But you might be reading too much into a pretty simple slip.

    Imber Ranae

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    It's not really a mistake. It's not particularly well-phrased, I'll grant you, but there's nothing wrong with it grammatically. "That" can have an animate antecedent just as easily as it can have an inanimate antecedent in all varieties of English.


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    It's one of those things that are matters of personal preference rather than grammar. Personally, I always use who when referring to people, but not everyone does.
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