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Learning Commons: Writing & Speech: Grammar

Reading and Writing Resources

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Which or That? 

That is used with a defining (or restrictive or essential) clause.

Which is used with a non-defining (or non-restrictive or non-essential) clause.

Remember: Which is as disposable as a sandWICH bag, therefore it is used with a non-essential clause because it can be "thrown out" of the sentence without losing meaning.

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To understand when to use that or which, it is important to understand clauses. A defining clause (also called an essential cause or restrictive clause) gives information essential to the meaning of the sentence

  • Use that with a defining clause.  

Example: My bike that has a broken seat is in the garage.

In this sentence, the clause tells us "which" bike the speaker is talking about.  If you removed the clause "that has a broken seat," you wouldn't know which bike was in the garage because it is implied that he has more than one. Therefore the clause is essential to understanding the meaning of the sentence and uses the word "that."

  • Use which with a non-defining clause.  

Example: My bike, which has a broken seat, is in the garage.

Here the broken seat is simply a description of the bike in the garage.  There is no implication that the speaker owns more than one bike, so you could remove the clause "which has a broken seat" without changing the meaning of the sentence; it's non-essential. 

Note: Punctuate non-essential clauses with commas on both sides!

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More Examples:

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

                                                                                                                            --Ralph Waldo Emerson

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second by imitation, which is easiest, and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

                                                                                                                            --Confucius

 

 

Parts of Speech

Pronouns

Clauses and Phrases

Other Grammar Topics

Practice

After you've read the handout in the "Agreement" box above, test your knowledge below with an interactive Quizlet on subject/verb agreement.

After you've read the handout in the "Agreement" box above, test your knowledge below with an interactive Quizlet on pronoun/antecedent agreement.

After you've read the handout in the "Pronoun" box above, test your knowledge below with an interactive Quizlet on pronouns.

Practice 1: After you've read the handout in the "Pronoun" box above, test your knowledge below with an interactive Quizlet on who/whom.

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Practice 2: To practice using who/whom in Nearpod's Time to Climb below:

Maximize the screen in the top right corner.

Type in your first name

Click "join the lesson."

Select an animal.

Start