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A classy way to choose between 'which' and 'that'


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ENGLISH IS BAFFLING, isn't it? No wonder. It’s a real mongrel language, influenced by German, Greek and Latin in particular.


We stole pyjamas and bungalows from India. We plundered French cafés and restaurants. We pulled chocolate and moccasins right out of the hands of native Americans. And Japanese pub singers were enjoying karaokes well before we jumped on stage.


So, if you can’t stay composed enough to compose, if you think grammar is more grating than great or if you’d rather be cursed by a witch than spell, give me a shout and I’ll try to clarify the mess that is the English language.


Which brings me to that


In response to a request I received from a contact recently, we’ll kick off 2021 with an explanation of ‘which’ and ‘that’.


I’ll keep it simple to begin with. If you want more details just ask.


Use ‘that’ when the information you’re writing about is essential.


That’s that.


Use ‘which’ when it’s non-essential.


There, told you it was simple.


Oh, you need a bit more. Okay. Look at the two following examples:


When the life of your sentence depends on it that is when to use ‘that’.


When your sentence can live without it, which happens quite often, use ‘which’.


You can see that the clause in the second example, beginning with ‘which’, could be removed and the sentence would still make sense: when your sentence can live without it, use 'which'.


‘Which’ and ‘that’ are different class


Some people think ‘which’ sounds a bit nicer than ‘that’. A bit posher.


Fine. Let’s use that as a mnemonic. Posh things tend to be nice to have, but unnecessary. So, when the information is nice to have, but the sentence will survive without it, use ‘which’.


‘That’ is a bit more down to earth. It’s for stuff that you really cannot live without. See what I did there?


I hope this is helpful.


Get in touch if you want help with your writing.


And have a great week.


Au revoir (no prizes for guessing where we nicked that from),


Lucas


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