The usage of which and that

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Question of the day: This is the antique fountain pen which my late grandmother gave me.  This is the antique fountain pen that my late grandmother gave me.  The antique fountain pen which my late grandmother gave me is a treasured possession.  The antique fountain pen that my late grandmother gave me is a treasured possession.   When is it proper to use which and when do you use that?  My goal is to master a grammar concept per day.  

which that COMPARISONS asked Aug 31 '13 at 03:16 Chantal New member

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This boils down to a consideration of whether or not the adjective clause is "necessary" or "essential", or whether you do not need it to identify the appropriate noun or pronoun being described.   Use "that" when the adjective clause is essential to identify or understand the preceding noun or pronoun.  Use "which" when the adjective clause is non-essential and not necessary to understand the sentence or the noun that (<-example) it is describing.

 

For example:

(1)The car that was left at the party was towed.  (If you dropped out "that was left at the party", you would have no idea which car was towed, so this is a restrictive clause and you need to use "that".)

(2) John's car, which was left at the party, was towed.  (You don't need "which was left at the party" to know which car we were talking about or what happened; hence, you use "which".)

 

Please note the punctuation use--this should also be essential to the evaluation of the question that (<-example) you just asked.

link comment edited Aug 31 '13 at 14:46 Aaron Prejean Expert

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