Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grammar-licious: Making Grammar Fun - October

That versus Which

Anyone have troubles knowing when to use “that” and when to use “which”? Anyone? Okay, I see one person nodding.

This month’s grammar-liciously easy grammar topic is knowing when it’s appropriate to use “that” versus “which.” It’s all fun, trust me.

That starts a clause or a phrase that is important to the meaning of the sentence. It is restrictive.

Which starts a clause or a phrase that is not essential to understanding the meaning of the sentence. It is nonrestrictive. A phrase or a clause starting with which always follows a comma. If you can insert “by the way” to the sentence and it still means what you want, then which is correct.

Examples are the best teacher, so here we go.

Correct:
The camera that I want for my anniversary is purple.
My camera, which needs batteries, is purple.

Both sentences are correct. Can you see the difference in the usage? The first sentence has a that phrase integral to the meaning. The second sentence has a which by the way phrase that adds additional information to the sentence, but adds nothing to the overall meaning. “which needs batteries” can be removed and the sentence still means what you intend.

Incorrect:
The subject, that she is almost failing, is social studies.
“that she is almost failing” is essential to the meaning of the sentence and should not be offset with commas
Correct:
The subject that she is almost failing is social studies.

Each of the following is correct – do you notice the differences in that/which usage?
The dog lapped up the water that was put down.
She gave the dog some water, which by the way he quickly lapped up.

He rode his bike in a race that exceeded fifty miles.
He rode his bike in a race, which by the way stretched over 90 miles.

The ice cream truck that comes every day is pink.
The ice cream truck, which by the way plays annoying music, comes twice a day.

Note #1: Not all that’s start a restrictive clause or phrase
Note #2: If you come across a which, mentally insert by the way, and if the meaning remains the same, make sure there’s a comma in front of the phrase. If the meaning gets jumbled after adding by the way, you most likely want that.

This month’s recommended grammar book is: The Grammar Bible by Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas

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