Which is which and that is that

The question of when to use “which” or “that” can be a conundrum, confounded by writings of old when rules were different than those in effect today.

Fortunately, here is a simple guideline for modern writers:

    Use “that” at the beginning of a phrase that is essential to the sentence.
    Use “which” at the beginning of a non-essential phrase that won’t be missed if you decide to delete it.

The essential phrase—beginning with “that”—is known as a “restrictive clause,” so named because the writer is restricted (required) to include the information in order to convey the sentence’s full meaning.

The non-essential phrase—beginning with “which”—is called an “appositive phrase,” so named because the words in the phrase are in apposition to (added to) the rest of the sentence.

The following two sentences are almost identical—except for “that” or “which” and two commas—but the difference in meaning is huge.

    My Mercedes-Benz that my uncle owned for 15 years is parked in his garage.
    My Mercedes-Benz, which my uncle owned for 15 years, is parked in his garage.

The first sentence suggests that the writer owns more than one Mercedes-Benz and that the one once owned by an uncle is still parked in the uncle’s garage. All of the words in this restrictive clause are essential in order to distinguish that Mercedes-Benz from others the writer owns.

The second sentence indicates that the writer owns one and only one Mercedes-Benz and it’s parked in an uncle’s garage. The appositive phrase also informs that the uncle once owned the car for 15 years—a nice little detail but not essential to the main message.

Because the writer owns only one Mercedes-Benz, the sentence could simply be:

    My Mercedes-Benz is parked in my uncle’s garage.

Because an appositive phrase is not essential, it is separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Some appositives, those not identified by “which,” can be harder to recognize. For example:

    George Washington, the first President of the United States, did not sign the Declaration of Independence.

Is the phrase “the first President of the United States” essential? No. Does the phrase have value? Yes; it points out a historical detail.

The key to properly using and punctuating “which” and “that” is an exercise in nuance, accuracy and clarity. Read the sentence from the readers’ point of view and you will know what to do.

IMG_2815-Grand-Canyon-South-Rim-2012-07-07-600pxw-224x168The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s most magnificent sights. Spontaneously embracing its magnificence—and all of life’s opportunities wherever/whenever possible—is one of my greatest joys.

On a road trip across the United States in 2012, I camped one night on the canyon’s south rim a mile above the Colorado River. As I captured this photo image, I whispered, “I sure would like to raft that river.” And then I stated, “Why not?”

Determined to fulfill that desire, I drove a few miles to a general store I had passed earlier. There, I used the store’s pay phone—my cell phone couldn’t pick up a signal in that wilderness—and called four rafting outfitters. One of them, Arizona River Runners, had space for one person—on a raft that was leaving from the upriver put-in point in two days. I booked my seat and drove there the next day.

Others in our rafting party were amazed at my good fortune, having scheduled their trips months in advance. I smiled, knowing that we can achieve what we ask when we are bold enough to act.

Photo by Robert M Weir, July 2012, South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA.




Back To Top
CONTACT US
221, Mount Olimpus, Rheasilvia, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
+1 (999) 999-99-99
PGlmcmFtZSBzcmM9Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZS5jb20vbWFwcy9lbWJlZD9wYj0hMW0xOCExbTEyITFtMyExZDYwNDQuMjc1NjM3NDU2ODA1ITJkLTczLjk4MzQ2MzY4MzI1MjA0ITNkNDAuNzU4OTkzNDExNDc4NTMhMm0zITFmMCEyZjAhM2YwITNtMiExaTEwMjQhMmk3NjghNGYxMy4xITNtMyExbTIhMXMweDAlM0EweDU1MTk0ZWM1YTFhZTA3MmUhMnNUaW1lcytTcXVhcmUhNWUwITNtMiExc2VuITJzITR2MTM5MjkwMTMxODQ2MSIgd2lkdGg9IjEwMCUiIGhlaWdodD0iMTAwJSIgZnJhbWVib3JkZXI9IjAiIHN0eWxlPSJib3JkZXI6MCI+PC9pZnJhbWU+
Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.
COMPANY NAME
Dolor aliquet augue augue sit magnis, magna aenean aenean et! Et tempor, facilisis cursus turpis tempor odio. Diam lorem auctor sit, a a? Lundium placerat mus massa nunc habitasse.
  • Goblinus globalus fantumo tubus dia montes
  • Scelerisque cursus dignissim lopatico vutario
  • Montes vutario lacus quis preambul denlac
  • Leftomato denitro oculus softam lorum quis
  • Spiratio dodenus christmas gulleria tix digit
  • Dualo fitemus lacus quis preambul patturtul
CONTACT US
Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.
PGlmcmFtZSBzcmM9Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZS5jb20vbWFwcy9lbWJlZD9wYj0hMW0xOCExbTEyITFtMyExZDYwNDQuMjc1NjM3NDU2ODA1ITJkLTczLjk4MzQ2MzY4MzI1MjA0ITNkNDAuNzU4OTkzNDExNDc4NTMhMm0zITFmMCEyZjAhM2YwITNtMiExaTEwMjQhMmk3NjghNGYxMy4xITNtMyExbTIhMXMweDAlM0EweDU1MTk0ZWM1YTFhZTA3MmUhMnNUaW1lcytTcXVhcmUhNWUwITNtMiExc2VuITJzITR2MTM5MjkwMTMxODQ2MSIgd2lkdGg9IjEwMCUiIGhlaWdodD0iMTAwJSIgZnJhbWVib3JkZXI9IjAiIHN0eWxlPSJib3JkZXI6MCI+PC9pZnJhbWU+
Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.
COMPANY NAME
CONTACT US
Dolor aliquet augue augue sit magnis, magna aenean aenean et! Et tempor, facilisis cursus turpis tempor odio putonius mudako empero brutto populius giten facilisis cursus turpis balocus tredium todo.
Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.
PGlmcmFtZSBzcmM9Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZS5jb20vbWFwcy9lbWJlZD9wYj0hMW0xOCExbTEyITFtMyExZDYwNDQuMjc1NjM3NDU2ODA1ITJkLTczLjk4MzQ2MzY4MzI1MjA0ITNkNDAuNzU4OTkzNDExNDc4NTMhMm0zITFmMCEyZjAhM2YwITNtMiExaTEwMjQhMmk3NjghNGYxMy4xITNtMyExbTIhMXMweDAlM0EweDU1MTk0ZWM1YTFhZTA3MmUhMnNUaW1lcytTcXVhcmUhNWUwITNtMiExc2VuITJzITR2MTM5MjkwMTMxODQ2MSIgd2lkdGg9IjEwMCUiIGhlaWdodD0iMTAwJSIgZnJhbWVib3JkZXI9IjAiIHN0eWxlPSJib3JkZXI6MCI+PC9pZnJhbWU+
CONTACT US
COMPANY NAME
221, Mount Olimpus, Rheasilvia, Mars
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
+1 (999) 999-99-99
Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.
Macbook Pro
* Intel Core i7 (3.8GHz, 6MB cache)
* Retina Display (2880 x 1880 px)
* NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M (Iris)
* 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
* Thunderbolt 2 (up to 20Gb/s)
* Faster All-Flash Storage (X1)
* Long Lasting Battery (9 hours)
PGlmcmFtZSB3aWR0aD0iMTAwJSIgaGVpZ2h0PSIxMDAlIiBzcmM9Ii8vd3d3LnlvdXR1YmUuY29tL2VtYmVkL3NCV1BDdmR2OEJrP2F1dG9wbGF5PTEiIGZyYW1lYm9yZGVyPSIwIiBhbGxvd2Z1bGxzY3JlZW4+PC9pZnJhbWU+
ENJOY AURORA BOREALIS
SHARE
OR
SUBSCRIBE
Vel eros amet amet mauris a habitasse scel erisque? Vel urna dis et, placerat phasellus, diam in! Placerat nec facilisis, tortor tristique. Arcu placerat sagittis, velit lorem scelerisque egestas placerat phasellus.
PLEASE SHARE US!
Vel eros amet amet mauris a habitasse scelerisque? Vel urna dis et, placerat phasellus, diam in! Placerat nec facilisis, tortor tristique. Arcu placerat sagittis, velit lorem scelerisque egestas. Lundium et, ultrices, et tempor vel proin est! Lundium sociis ac, ut ultricies ridiculus ultricies pulvinar scelerisque et adipiscing auctor, urna platea non rhoncus magna egestas montes platea sed porta nisi porta, mus integer porta elit.
PGlmcmFtZSB3aWR0aD0iMTAwJSIgaGVpZ2h0PSIxMDAlIiBzcmM9Imh0dHA6Ly93d3cueW91dHViZS5jb20vZW1iZWQvajhsU2NITzJtTTAiIGZyYW1lYm9yZGVyPSIwIiBhbGxvd2Z1bGxzY3JlZW4+PC9pZnJhbWU+
Increase more than 700% of Email Subscribers!
Dolor aliquet augue augue sit magnis, magna aenean aenean et! Et tempor, facilisis cursus turpis tempor odio. Diam lorem auctor sit, a a? Lundium placerat mus massa nunc habitasse, arcu, etiam pulvinar.
  • Goblinus globalus fantumo tubus dia
  • Scelerisque cursus dignissim lopatico
  • Montes vutario lacus quis preambul den
  • Leftomato denitro oculus softam lorum
  • Spiratio dodenus christmas gulleria tix
  • Dualo fitemus lacus quis preambul pat
  • Montes vutario lacus quis digit turtulis
  We hate spam and never share your details.
ARE YOU READY? GET IT NOW!
Increase more than 500% of Email Subscribers!
Your Information will never be shared with any third party.
SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER
Turpis dis amet adipiscing hac montes odio ac velit? Porta, non rhoncus vut, vel, et adipiscing magna pulvinar adipiscing est adipiscing urna. Dignissim rhoncus scelerisque pulvinar?
GET IT NOW
500% MORE SUBSCRIBERS
EFFICIENCY
BOOST YOUR SALES
CREATIVITY
INSPIRE YOUR VISITORS
BE UNIQUE
CREATE UNIQUE POPUPS
ARE YOU READY? GET IT NOW!
Increase more than 500% of Email Subscribers!
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Duis viverra, urna vitae vehicula congue, purus nibh vestibulum lacus, sit amet tristique ante odio.
ENTER YOUR NAME
ENTER YOUR E-MAIL
ENTER YOUR PHONE NUMBER
Your Information will never be shared with any third party.
SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER
All rights reserved © Company Name, 2014
Dolor aliquet augue augue sit magnis, magna aenean aenean et! Et tempor, facilisis cursus turpis tempor odio, cursus montes ac turpis. Ultrices! Massa integer augue ridiculus adipiscing, massa cras pid. Turpis placerat scelerisque, vut odio mus non, mattis porttitor, nunc odio, turpis tortor sit? Pid amet, sed facilisis.
  • Goblinus globalus fantumo tandempo
  • Scelerisque cursus dignissim donus
  • Montes vutario lacus quis arcupolisio
  • Leftomato denitro oculus tepircos den
  • Spiratio dodenus christmas popupius
  • Afrenius globalus spiritum tandempo
  • Fitatos vutario lacus quis arcup delis
Do you want massive traffic?
Dignissim enim porta aliquam nisi pellentesque. Pulvinar rhoncus magnis turpis sit odio pid pulvinar mattis integer aliquam!
  • Goblinus globalus fantumo tubus dia montes
  • Scelerisque cursus dignissim lopatico vutario
  • Montes vutario lacus quis preambul den lacus
  • Leftomato denitro oculus softam lorum quis
  • Spiratio dodenus christmas gulleria tix digit
  • Dualo fitemus lacus quis preambul pat turtulis
* we never share your e-mail with third parties.
Do you want more traffic?
Dignissim enim porta aliquam nisi pellentesque. Pulvinar rhoncus magnis turpis sit odio pid pulvinar mattis integer aliquam!
  • Goblinus globalus fantumo tubus dia montes
  • Scelerisque cursus dignissim lopatico vutario
  • Montes vutario lacus quis preambul den lacus
  • Leftomato denitro oculus softam lorum quis
  • Spiratio dodenus christmas gulleria tix digit
  • Dualo fitemus lacus quis preambul pat turtulis
  • Scelerisque cursus dignissim lopatico vutario
  • Montes vutario lacus quis preambul den lacus
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER AND START INCREASING YOUR PROFITS NOW!
* we never share your e-mail with third parties.
Do you want massive traffic?
Scelerisque augue ac hac, aliquet, nascetur turpis. Augue diam phasellus odio lorem integer, aliquam aliquam sociis nisi adipiscing hacac.
  • Goblinus globalus fantumo tubus dia
  • Scelerisque cursus dignissim lopatico
  • Montes vutario lacus quis preambul
  • Leftomato denitro oculus softam lorum
  • Spiratio dodenus christmas gulleria tix
  • Dualo fitemus lacus quis preambul bela
PGlmcmFtZSB3aWR0aD0iMTAwJSIgaGVpZ2h0PSIxMDAlIiBzcmM9Imh0dHA6Ly93d3cueW91dHViZS5jb20vZW1iZWQvajhsU2NITzJtTTAiIGZyYW1lYm9yZGVyPSIwIiBhbGxvd2Z1bGxzY3JlZW4+PC9pZnJhbWU+
* we never share your details with third parties.
ARE YOU READY? GET IT NOW!
Increase more than 500% of Email Subscribers!
Your Information will never be shared with any third party.
Baseball's spring training is underway. Read about the Detroit Tigers warming up in Florida.
Awesome new article on Civil Rights and Human Rights. Historical and topical. Read it now.
My blogs are fascinating stories about people in various countries and cultures, written to promote “peace through understanding.” Sign up to receive them.