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Basic Grammar - Any English Majors?(8 posts)

Basic Grammar - Any English Majors?jose_Tex_mex
Jul 23, 2002 3:55 PM
Does anyone have a quick and easy way to remember how/when to use "that" vs "which." I have conquered all of the normal elements of style: then vs than, it's vs its, affect vs effect, they are vs there, and so on. However, when it comes to figuring the correct one on the fly - I have to actually stop and think.
Any quick ideas? I have the text book definition but it's a bit of a bother.
For example, when deciding which "then" to use I decide if the word is timE based or is a compArison. I choose the E or the A and things are easy...
will a minor do?DougSloan
Jul 23, 2002 4:21 PM
Here is a simple rule, which has many exceptions. "Which, when used to join two clauses, almost always follows a comma.
How about a Spanish minor?mickey-mac
Jul 23, 2002 5:44 PM
In addition to what Doug said, which is correct, "that" is restrictive or defining and is used to distinguish one of multiple objects or ideas: e.g., The dog that bit me is in the backyard. "Which" is nonrestrictive and used when referring only to one object or idea: e.g., The dog, which bit me, is in the backyard. If I recall correctly, "The Elements of Style" contains a discussion of the use of "which" and "that."
The Elements of StyleDougSloan
Jul 23, 2002 7:49 PM
"The Elements of Style" -- an English minor in 50(?) pages. I have internalized the that/which distinction, so it's hard to remember the real rule. Nonetheless, it has become so common to use "which" too often that it almost seems awkward to use it correctly. When I'm proofing younger associates' work, I just cringe at the need to 'splain it to them.

The Elements of Style detailsDougSloan
Jul 24, 2002 6:17 AM
Here is what The Elements of Style says:

That is the defining, or restrictive pronoun, which the nondefining, or nonrestrictive.

The lawn mower that is broken is in the garage. (Tells which one)

The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage. (Adds a fact about the only mower in question)

The use of which for that is common in written and spoken language ("Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this think which is come to pass.") Occasionally, which seems preferable to that, as in the sentence from the Bible. But it would be a convenience to all if these two pronouns were used with precision. The careful writer, watchful for small conveniences, goes which-hunting, removes the defining whiches, and by doing so improves his work.
yup...get the Elements of Style...ColnagoFE
Jul 24, 2002 6:30 AM
simple straightforward advice. i still cringe when i hear people say "utilize" instead of "use". it just sounds so pompous and unneccesary.
Jul 24, 2002 2:53 PM
Aren't those the things that, you put in every five, words or so to break, up those really long nonsensical, sentences that appear in newspaper letters, to the editor which are, obviously written by some raving, lunatic and contain not one, logical thought but just go, on and on about something, or other that only the, writer cares about but the, paper publishes anyway to fill, up the otherwise white space?
Jul 24, 2002 12:03 PM
I think I get it now. Thanks for the help.

Yes, I have the Elements of Style - great book. I was looking for a quick and easy way to remember it.

In practice I think most people get it wrong. Normally, I find I can remove the word "that" in about 90% of the cases as it is just "wordy."