which / that (relative pronoun)

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Hello everyone!!

I can not clear up a doubt about the use of which and that when they work as a relative pronouns. I don`t really Know if there is some rule for that. I write some examples, but of course I could write many more:

This is the book which was on the shelf.
Yestarday, I saw film which was really good.
Mary bought the books which I was going to buy.

This is the dress that I bought last week.
Those aren`t the jeans that I wanted.
I have a dog that can open doors.
This isn’t the place that I was telling you about.

Maybe, do we use Which when it is followed by the verbs to be and to go?. I suspect this is no the rule to follow.

I would appreciate any answer.
Thank you very much in advance!. Best regards and saludos!

Moderator's note: several threads have been merged to create this one.
 
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  • Makser

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi for learning,

    As far as I know, you can use that and which in all the examples you wrote:

    This is the book which/that was on the shelf.
    Yesterday, I saw a film which/that was really good.
    Mary bought the books which/that I was going to buy.

    This is the dress that/which I bought last week.
    Those aren`t the jeans that/which I wanted.
    I have a dog that/which can open doors.
    This isn’t the place that/which I was telling you about.

    In fact, in some of these examples you can even omit them:

    Mary bought the books (which/that) I was going to buy.
    This is the dress (that/which) I bought last week.
    Those aren`t the jeans (that/which) I wanted.
    This isn’t the place (that/which) I was telling you about.

    So it doesn't depend on what verb follows which or that. I think it's a question of being more or less formal.

    Un saludo.
     
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    reganse

    Senior Member
    English – U.S.
    Yes, there is a rule. You use "which" when you want to add more information about the object of the sentence. This information is contained within commas.
    For example:
    Yesterday I saw a film, which was really good, about a young girl who traveled to …
    I bought a new dress, which didn't fit me, by the way, at a store in the new mall …
    Mary brought the books, which I was going to buy, to our meeting …

    "That" simply connects one clause with another:
    This is the dress that I bought last week.
    Those aren't the jeans that I wanted.
    I have a dog that can open doors.

    In the above sentences, you are not adding anything more to the object of the sentence.

    I hope I've explained this clearly.
     

    reganse

    Senior Member
    English – U.S.
    I forgot to mention something.

    Also, the additional information that is contained within the commas sometimes is superfluous to the meaning of the sentence.
     

    weeshus

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello everyone!!
    I suspect this there is no the rule to follow.

    I would appreciate any answer.
    Thank you very much in advance!. Best regards and saludos!
    A Rule!!

    The relative pronouns who, which,that, whom, whose, of which, are used in defining relative clauses as follows:

    For Persons
    Subject = who / that Object = whom/who/that Possessive = whose


    For Things
    Subject = which / that Object = which/that Possessive = whose/of which

    For persons where the subject may be who or that who is normally used. But that is a possible alternative after all, everyone, everybody, no one, nobody, and those

    When the object is whom or who or that: The object form is whom, but this is considered very formal. In spoken English we normally use who or that

    Regards
    Weeshus
     
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    Makser

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Yes, there is a rule. You use "which" when you want to add more information about the object of the sentence. This information is contained within commas.
    For example:
    Yesterday I saw a film, which was really good, about a young girl who traveled to …
    I bought a new dress, which didn't fit me, by the way, at a store in the new mall …
    Mary brought the books, which I was going to buy, to our meeting …

    "That" simply connects one clause with another:
    This is the dress that I bought last week.
    Those aren't the jeans that I wanted.
    I have a dog that can open doors.

    In the above sentences, you are not adding anything more to the object of the sentence.

    I hope I've explained this clearly.
    I agree with you in the fact that all your examples are NON-DEFINING relatives clauses. WHICH is the only possibility with non-defining relative clauses but for learning was asking about DEFINING relative clauses. At least, all his/her examples were so.


    Un saludo.
     
    Hello again!. Thank you very much for your answers!.
    I understand all your points of view.
    However I don`t have a clear understanding yet, sorry.
    The phrases written with "which" by me, were originaly like that, without commas. I mean, I have copy them from some grammar exercise in a book. Those phrases were written exactly as I have done, without commas.Thet seem to me to be DEFINING relative clauses. So, could(or should) they have been written with "that" instead of "which"?
    Besides, I have found another phrase where "that" is replacing "which" as the consequence of profreading.The original phrase was:
    " I am hooked in some television programmes, and especially those which deal with sports".
    And a native english speaker corrected the sentence replacing "which" for "that".
    " I am hooked in some television programmes, and especially those that deal with sports", because she/he considered( I suppose)that the original sentence was incorrect.
    Well, I hope you understand me(my english...)
    Thanks again. Roanheads, I have just seen your last post, I will have a look.
     
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    reganse

    Senior Member
    English – U.S.
    The first three sentences in your original post are incorrect. The rest of them are correct, in my opinion.
    " I am hooked in some television programmes, and especially those which deal with sports".
    The above sentence is incorrect because the "which" in this case is not parenthetical. In other words, it is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

    Here is another link:
    http://ask.metafilter.com/45178/Difference-between-that-and-which

    I've heard that the book, The King's English, is a good one. I've never read it.
     
    The first three sentences in your original post are incorrect. The rest of them are correct, in my opinion.
    " I am hooked in some television programmes, and especially those which deal with sports".
    The above sentence is incorrect because the "which" in this case is not parenthetical. In other words, it is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

    Here is another link:
    http://ask.metafilter.com/45178/Difference-between-that-and-which

    I've heard that the book, The King's English, is a good one. I've never read it.
    After reading those threads, and considering all I have read in english to the present, I reach to the conclusion that many people(if not the most), including writers, don`t follow the rule. Is not this true to you , Regance?.
    Regards!
     

    weeshus

    Senior Member
    English - England
    After reading those threads, and considering all I have read in english up to the present time (you could say until now for learning), I reach have come to the conclusion that many, if not all, people(if not the most), including writers, don't follow the rule. Is not this true to you , Regance?.
    Regards!
    Sadly for learning, it is true. For many of us it is a constant struggle to preserve not only correct grammar and usage, but also maintain our heritage of an amazingly rich, hugely varied and incredibly flexible yet exact communication tool. Alas, I think we may all be too late.

    The Fowler Reference to the Kings English is I think extremely rewarding and instructve reading.

    Regards
    Weeshus
     

    Keisha_Aisha

    Senior Member
    Spain, Spanish
    Hola a todos,

    como siempre dudo entre si debo usar WHICH o THAT. Conozco las reglas, pero siempre me surge alguna duda...

    Aquí van los 3 ejemplos:

    "It is a problem THAT goes beyond Africa" --> Debe ser "that" porque es una frase especificativa, ¿no?
    "The study will be conducted by the Obsevatory, WHICH consists of..." --> En este caso se usa "which" porque es una frase explicativa, ¿verdad?
    "There is a variety of beliefs and traditions THAT/WHICH perpetrate these practices" --> Aquí está mi duda... ¿es una especificativa y debería ir con THAT? :confused:

    Ufffff... por más que leo y leo las reglas siempre me surge alguna duda a lo largo del camino...

    ¡¡Muchas gracias!!
     

    Agró

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Navarre
    En la segunda "which" solamente, porque es explicativa, como dices.
    El la primera y tercera "that" o "which", indistintamente, porque son especificativas; dicho esto, el nivel del contexto, su formalidad, pueden determinar el uso de uno u otro: en inglés oral/informal, "that"; en inglés escrito/formal, "which". Pero la cosa no es tan estricta.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    It is a problem THAT o WHICH goes beyond Africa.
    Sí es especificativa. Cualquiera de las dos sería correcta en esta frase. That es más usual; which me haría que el problema suene más serioso.

    The study will be conducted by the Observatory, which consists of....
    Necesito toda la frase para determinar. ¿Es el estudio o el observatorio que "consists of ..."?

    There are a variety of beliefs and traditions THAT/WHICH perpetuate these practices.
    Sí es especificativa. Cualquiera de las dos sería correcta en esta frase también. El uso de which me sugeriría que va a venir una lista de creencias y tradiciones.

    En general, cuando es especificativa y el sujeto de la subordinada, that es más común y which frena un poco el ritmo de la frase, por ejemplo para hacer más literal o concreto el significado.
     

    Jim2996

    Senior Member
    American English
    Hello again,

    1) What I think you mean (based on your choice of "that") is
    This problem goes beyond Africa. "That goes beyond" is essential to your meaning.
    In another context you could have written
    This is a problem!!!
    This is a problem which, in case you might, perhaps be interested, goes beyond Africa.

    2)What I think you mean (based on your choice of "which," the comma before it, and the capitalization of "Observatory" is
    The study will be conducted the the Observatory. The Observatory consist of ...
    This indicates to me that earlier you said which observatory, or that the Observatory is its name and you expect me to know that.
    If, in a different context, you need to specify which observatory, you would need to use "that."

    Commonly, many commoners will say, and even write,
    The study will be conducted by the Observatory that consists of... This is not the best English usage, but it is common. I think that you know "common" can mean usual—or, it can mean not-very-good, lower-class.
    3)I'm not so sure what you intend. My guess is that you meant "perpetuate" (to cause to continue or to be remembered; preserve from oblivion), not "perpetrate," which may may mean to do or perform, but only with evil, criminal, wicked, undesirable, offensive, etc things. To perpetrate is done by people; to have traditions perpetrate is odd at best. To save you a trip to the dictionary, I put one definition in () and the other in a "which" clause; neither of them is essential.

    My best guess is
    A variety of beliefs and traditions perpetuate these practices. If you want to start with "there"
    There is a variety of beliefs and traditions that perpetuate these practices.

    If you want an example of "which,"
    There is a variety of beliefs and traditions which perpetuate these practices that we must study.
    I could have put () around the which phrase (overkill). Commas, which I highly recommend, would be a great help to the reader. Without the commas, which I omitted on purpose, it is awkward.
    I don't think even this oddity would ever be misunderstood.
    There is a variety of beliefs and traditions (that perpetuate these practices) that we must study.



    Fowler and his book are mentioned above. I actually had and studied all three editions just after college, which was a long time ago. If you believe in a precise use of English, it is a joy to read, at least in small doses. If you don't, your reaction is likely to be "The Hell is all this." It is a well-written, authoritative guide to the standard of well-educated usage in England in the beginning of the twentieth century. As I remember, it's I/we shall go, not I/we will go. I doubt he even mentions I am going to go because no one, at that time, would even think of saying that. I followed the link; the third sentence is "There was formerly a tendency to use 'that' for everything: the tendency now is to use 'who' and 'which' for everything." Note that now the tendencies have reversed—and current usage is a semicolon, not a colon. It is not a book that is for beginners.


    One last comment, on "Ufffff... por más que leo y leo las reglas siempre me surge alguna duda a lo largo del camino... "
    I hope what you mean is that the more you read and re-read the rules the more confusion you find. I suggest that the remedy is not more rulebooks, which even confuse me, or more re-reading of them, but por más que leo well-written English, the more I absorb it. By "well-writen" I mean English that starts with a skillful writer and then goes thought an editor. This is most publish books and magazines. My usual, specific advice to American high school and college students seeking to improve their English is to read The New Yorker, and keep reading it. It's a very well-written magazine. Some of the current issues are easily available on line.

    As usual, I hope this helps.
     
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