Which VS That: How To Choose

which vs that

Share This Post

You’ve been writing for years and have a good command of the English language—you know when to use which vs that, right? Not so fast. Choosing between these two words can be challenging even for experienced professionals, as there is often more than one correct answer. While both terms share some similarities, understanding the subtle differences can make all the difference in your writing. In this blog post we will review which vs that so that you never have to second guess yourself again!

The Difference Between Which vs That

The words “which” and “that” are relative pronouns commonly used in English, both serving lies in whether they introduce restrictive (essential) or nonrestrictive (nonessential) clauses.

The word “that” is primarily used for restrictive clauses, also called defining or essential clauses. These clauses provide necessary information about the noun preceding them; without such clauses, the sentence’s meaning would significantly change. “That” is therefore pivotal in specifying the exact entity we’re referring to, offering critical, unignorably context. For instance, in the sentence “The book that is on the table is mine,” “that is on the table” is the restrictive clause that defines which book is being referred to. Remove the clause, and the sentence’s meaning is obscured; we no longer know which book belongs to the speaker.

On the other hand, “which” introduces nonrestrictive clauses, also known as non-defining or nonessential clauses. Nonrestrictive clauses provide additional information that could be removed without altering the primary message of the sentence. “Which” is often seen in sentences with a comma preceding it, signaling the start of the nonessential clause. An example would be, “The book, which is on the table, is mine.” Here, “which is on the table” merely adds detail about the book’s location. The sentence still holds its essential meaning even if we remove this clause – the book still belongs to the speaker.

While both “which” and “that” contribute to sentence structure and detail, their roles are distinct. “That” offers a narrow, essential scope to the subject at hand, while “which” enhances a broader view with supplementary details. Misusing these relative pronouns may not impede understanding entirely, but correct usage significantly improves the precision and clarity of our communication.

In American English, this distinction is more rigidly observed, while British English tends to be more flexible, often using “which” in restrictive clauses too. However, understanding and employing the classic rule can help ensure your language is universally comprehensible.

To summarize, “that” and “which,” though seemingly similar, serve unique functions in defining and adding information to a sentence’s subject. “That” is used for essential, defining details, whereas “which” is used for nonessential, extra information. Recognizing this fundamental difference can aid in producing more which vs that

Grammatical Rules for Using Which vs That

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering whether to use “which” or “that” in a sentence, you’re not alone. The grammatical rules for using these words can be confusing, but they’re actually quite simple once you know them.

  • That” is used to introduce essential information in a sentence, while “which” is used to introduce non-essential information.

Essential information is crucial to the meaning of the sentence and cannot be removed without changing its meaning, while non-essential information adds extra detail but is not necessary for the sentence to make sense. By understanding these rules, you can use “which” and “that” with confidence and clarity in your writing.

Examples of How to Use Which vs That in Sentences 

One of the most common grammatical errors that people make is using “which” and “that” interchangeably. While these two words may seem similar and interchangeable at first glance, they actually have different uses in sentences. The general rule of thumb is that “which” is used for non-restrictive clauses, which means clauses that can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning, while “that” is used for restrictive clauses, which means clauses that are essential to the meaning of a sentence.

  • For example, “I want to buy the car that is red” uses “that” because it is essential to the meaning of the sentence, while “I want to buy a car, which is red” uses “which” because the clause is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

By understanding the proper usage of “which” and “that,” you can elevate your writing and avoid common grammatical errors.

Tips for Choosing the Right Word (Which or That) 

When writing a sentence, it’s important to choose the right words to convey the intended meaning clearly. One common source of confusion is knowing when to use “which” versus “that.” The distinction between the two can often seem arbitrary, but there are rules you can follow to help you make the right choice.

  • Ask yourself whether the clause in question is essential to the meaning of the sentence.
  • If it is, use “that”; if not, use “which.”
  • Additionally, “that” should be used for restrictive clauses while “which” is used for nonrestrictive clauses.

By following these tips, you can improve the clarity and grammatical correctness of your writing.

Common Mistakes with Choosing Between Which vs That 

Choosing between “which” and “that” can be a tricky task. One common mistake is using “which” instead of “that” when referring to essential information in a sentence.

  • For example, “The document, which contains confidential information, must be secured.”

In this case, “which” implies that the information is nonessential when the intended meaning is that the document contains vital information that needs to be protected.

Another error is using “that” with nonrestrictive clauses. Nonrestrictive clauses provide extra information about a noun or pronoun, but the sentence would still make sense without it.

  • For instance, “My car, that is silver, is parked outside.”

In this example, “that” should be replaced with “which” since the color of the car is not an essential element of the sentence. Knowing the distinction between these two words is crucial in producing clear and accurate writing.

Conclusion

Choosing between ‘which’ and ‘that’ can be confusing for many English learners. In this article, we’ve looked at the definition of each word, the grammatical rules for using them, examples of how to use which vs that in sentences, when to use “that” in a sentence, when to use “which” in a sentence and some tips for choosing the right word. It’s important to remember that while both words are primarily used as relative pronouns or subordinating conjunctions, they have slightly different meanings and should be used accordingly. Knowing what context you’re writing in is key – if you’re unsure whether “that” or “which” would work best just take time to think about it before moving on with your writing!

FAQs

What is the difference between ‘which’ and ‘that’?

The main difference between ‘which’ and ‘that’ is that ‘that’ is used to introduce restrictive clauses, while ‘which’ introduces non-restrictive clauses. A restrictive clause is one that provides essential information about the noun it follows—it limits or restricts the meaning of the noun. A non-restrictive clause, on the other hand, adds additional information but does not limit or restrict the meaning of the noun.

When to use “that” in a sentence?

When introducing a restrictive clause, use “that”. For example: “The house that I bought last year needs a new roof.” The phrase “that I bought last year” is essential for understanding which house we’re talking about—it restricts the meaning of the noun “house.

When to use “which” in a sentence?

When introducing a non-restrictive clause, use “which.” For example: “The house, which I bought last year, needs a new roof.” The phrase “which I bought last year” is not essential for understanding which house we’re talking about—it simply adds additional information.

What are some tips for choosing between ‘which’ and ‘that’?

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re deciding whether to use ‘which’ or ‘that’:

  • If your clause is essential for understanding the meaning of the noun it follows, use that;
  • If your clause is not essential for understanding the meaning of the noun it follows, use which;
  • If you’re not sure whether a clause is restrictive or non-restrictive, try reading the sentence with and without the clause—if removing the clause changes the meaning of the sentence, it’s probably a restrictive clause.

What are some common mistakes with choosing between which vs that?

One of the most common mistakes with choosing between ‘which’ and ‘that’ is to incorrectly use one when introducing a restrictive clause. For example: “The house which I bought last year needs a new roof.” In this sentence, ‘which’ should be replaced with ‘that’, since it introduces a restrictive clause. Another common mistake is forgetting to use a comma when introducing a non-restrictive clause with ‘which. For example: “The house which I bought last year needs a new roof.” In this sentence, the phrase “which I bought last year” should be preceded by a comma.

When it comes to choosing between ‘which’ and ‘that’, English learners can feel confused—but with practice and these tips in mind, you’ll soon be able to choose the correct word every time!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Pi Puns to Inspire Your Nerdiness
Blog Content

20 Pi Puns to Inspire Your Nerdiness

If you’re someone who loves a good play on words, especially when it comes to mathematical concepts, then you’re in for a treat. Prepare to

DO YOU NEED WRITERS TO CREATE UNIQUE CONTENT?

drop us a line and keep in touch