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That v Which

17 replies

Chewbecca · 28/09/2013 22:17

I have just realised I'm confused which to use at times Blush

Discussions of the day currently reads:

Parents' lies - which you believed

Is that wrong? It feels like it should be that not which but I'm not sure why.

Can any of you pedants put me right please?

OP posts:
holmessweetholmes · 28/09/2013 22:41

Either is correct. 'Who' can oly be used of people. 'Which' only with things. 'That' can be used with either people or things.

sneezecakesmum · 28/09/2013 23:13

Shouldn't it be parent's lies, not parents lies?

LiberalPedant · 29/09/2013 03:16

OP, there is a distinction between "that" and "which" in American English, but it is my understanding that it is not used in British English. (I am American so someone correct me if I am wrong about that.)

In American English, "that" is used with restrictive clauses; "which" with non-restrictive. These links explain it better than I can.

So you would be right, OP, if the distinction were applied in this case. In the thread title summary, "that" is restrictive in that it identifies the types of lies ("that you believed") to be discussed.

holmessweetholmes · 29/09/2013 09:51

No sneezecakemum, the OP is correct. It should be parents' lies with the apostrophe after the s. Parent's lies would mean the lies of one parent only.

CailinDana · 29/09/2013 10:00

The blue plane that Jim played with was covered in stars.
The blue plane, which was covered in stars, belonged to Jim.
That is used within a simple clause when there are no embedded clauses
The hat that I wore
The policy that was announced
Which is used for a clause that expands a simpler clause
The policy, which was considered controversial, was announced at noon.

JustBecauseICan · 29/09/2013 10:04

Liberal- it's the same in UK English, depends whether that/which are in defining or non defining clauses.

sneezecakesmum · 29/09/2013 10:19

Of course...I thought it meant an individual parent, but it is clearly multiple parents if you look at the whole thread. Though I suppose if it is your individual parent that told lies ?

Parent can be singular or plural.....?

But the thread is for plural Grin

sneezecakesmum · 29/09/2013 10:20

Concedes argument....Grin

holmessweetholmes · 29/09/2013 10:38

So according to those rules, is the example given in the OP correct or incorrect?

CailinDana · 29/09/2013 10:55


Chewbecca · 29/09/2013 11:44

So are MNHQ OK to use which in this title?

(Sorry, not clear who's answering what now!)

OP posts:
CailinDana · 29/09/2013 13:19

No chewbecca they're not.

WilsonFrickett · 29/09/2013 13:32

Also, they are both often redundant. The last job I do before sending off copy is to search for 'that' and 'which' - most of them then are deleted.

In this case Parents' lies - you believed? is just as clear.

JustBecauseICan · 29/09/2013 14:11

"Which" in the title is perfectly correct. It's just that "which" sounds more formal to our ears than "that".

It would just sound more normal to us to hear "Parents' lies that you believed".

You have to use "which" (not "that") in "extra information" clauses (with commas)

You can omit the pronoun when it's the object of the verb.

LiberalPedant · 29/09/2013 14:46

I think "that" is correct because the clause is restrictive. You are asked to report parents' lies, but only the ones you believed.

Please tell me your parents' lies that you believed. (restrictive)
My parents' lies, which I believed, were damaging. (descriptive)

Chewbecca · 29/09/2013 15:27

So no agreement on the right or wrong of it then! No wonder I am unsure!

OP posts:
LiberalPedant · 29/09/2013 15:40

WilsonFrickett's solution is often the best. In fact, I used it myself in the second sentence of my previous post. Smile

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