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hello grammarians we're gonna talk about that versus which but I would like to start off by saying that in the study of grammar there's basically this long ongoing fight between two camps and it's between the prescriptivists who believe that language has concrete rules that need to be abided by and the descriptivists who also believe that language has rules but see language as more subject to change then the prescriptivists would like now I find myself to be right in between these two camps which frequently makes me feel like I want to stick out my hands and say you guys stop fighting you're both right all of this is to say that Brian garner the prescriptive author of my main usage manual Garner's modern American usage is not a fan of the word which he thinks it's ruined more sentences than any other word in English through its overuse on the other hand Geoffrey poem one of the editors of my descriptive Cambridge grammar of English says this position of Garner's is utter Buncombe and nonsense and that upon review of the entire body of English literature the rules about which and that are largely made up this is why it's so hard to get a good straight answer to that verses which on the internet because everyone is arguing at once because half the people say that there are definite rules and then half the other people saying the rules don't matter dude but a prolonged study of both camps has led me to determine that there are distinctions in usage there is a time to use that and a time to use which from this entire argument from these generations of just bickering I have sussed out two distinctions distinction one that is bad with commas distinction two which is bad with people so let's start with distinction number one that that is bad with commas now Brian garner says that most of the time nine times out of ten in fact he says if you want to use a relative pronoun and they're trying to choose between that and which you should probably use that and if you the one time out of ten that you do want to use which you're supposed to use , first so a comma which as in the carrot which was orange was tasty so you can write it that way with this little common net but you can also write it without as in the carrot which was orange was tasty now the distinction between these two sentences is the distinction between non restrictive and restrictive relative clauses because the carrot comma which was Orange comma was tasty means that you could take out the comma bracketed clause without changing the meaning of the sentence the carrot was tasty but the carrot no comma which was orange no comma was tasty yeah that which part is a restrictive clause the fact that the carrot is orange is essential to the sentence the carrot which was orange was tasty doesn't preclude the idea that there might have been a non orange non tasty carrot involved somewhere else however if we try to use that in a non restrictive way to say the carrot that was orange was tasty it to me and to other native English speakers that just sounds a little weird it's not ungrammatical per se there's nothing about the word that or which that says this is what it must be used for but of all the combinations that could be made using either which or that or commas or not commas that with commas is the least common and that is why to me as a speaker and writer of standard American English it doesn't look regular and to try that once more without commas now we have the carrot that was orange was tasty and this is restrictive usage again and this one works so number one works number two works number three is weird and number four is fine so the distinction here is that that just doesn't play well with commas that's distinction number one okay so distinction number two which is bad with people so the way I like to remember this is that I imagine a witch who does not like other people so I just imagine a kind of a cranky witch who it was all alone in the house in the woods and anytime someone comes up to her Allisyn asks her if she wants a subscription to a magazine or does she want to come over for dinner she says why and she slams the door the which which doesn't like people so the way this shakes out is that which doesn't refer to people and that can refer to anything this is also really strange and it betrays a prejudice in English toward human beings check this out to prove this let me throw some sentence fragments at you the dog that I saw the snow that fell the woman that boarded the plane all of these are fine let's try them again with which the dog which I saw the snow which fell the woman which boarded the plane now this to me as a native speaker of English doesn't sound right it should either be who or that and again this isn't because of some kind of rule of official grammar this is just the way that the language has shaken out which just doesn't have a connotation of human beings so that's the essential distinction that doesn't like commas which is bad with people you can learn anything Dave it out