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Who or that?

(8 Posts)
FortyCoats Wed 05-Aug-15 11:08:12

"People who drive..."

"People that drive..."

The latter seems wrong to me. I left school early but I'm sure I remember there being a rule or something relating to the use of who and that when referring to a person or an object.

"The people who were in the building...", not "The people that were in the building..."

"The books that were in the building..."

Is there such a rule?

FortyCoats Thu 06-Aug-15 18:59:34


bluebiro Fri 07-Aug-15 14:10:05

I think you're right, though a quick Google suggests that it might be OK to use 'that' instead of 'who' sometimes, eg (although this may be a US site). Sorry I can't offer a definitive answer!

prism Fri 07-Aug-15 15:05:13

There is a rule about "that" and "which", to wit, use "which" with a subsidiary clause ("the books, which were in the building, were rubbish") and otherwise use "that" ("the books that were in the building were rubbish"). But I don't think there's a rule distinction between "who" and "that".

SenecaFalls Fri 07-Aug-15 23:31:25

I was taught to use "who" for people and "that" for things. I think it is sometimes ok to use "that" for people, but never "who" for things.

SenecaFalls Fri 07-Aug-15 23:32:53

Oops, meant to add, I'm American. That's always relevant on Pedants' corner. smile

Andrewofgg Sun 09-Aug-15 08:59:53

I avoid "that" as a relative pronoun; I use "who" and "whom" for people and "which" for things (which includes animals).

A German colleague once told me that the two most difficult concepts in English grammar for him were:

First, the omitted relative pronoun as "the book I read last week" and

Second, that the word "one" can have a plural form as in "I prefer big books to small ones".

SmillasSenseOfSnow Mon 10-Aug-15 07:58:48

Second, that the word "one" can have a plural form as in "I prefer big books to small ones".

DP can't even get used to it in the singular. If you drop something on the floor, he'll suggest you get 'a new', rather than 'a new one'. I think 'get a new what?' is starting to wear thin on him. wink

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