The EFC Writer – That vs Which

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer — a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing.  

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: THAT vs WHICH

If you can take your phrase out without changing the meaning of your sentence, use “which.” If you can’t, use “that.”

Look:

  • Milk that has expired is gross.
  • Milk, which tastes delicious, doesn’t last forever.

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS: RESTRICTIVE vs NONRESTRICTIVE CLAUSES

RESTRICTIVE CLAUSES can’t be removed from a sentence or they’ll change its meaning.  If you’re using a restrictive clause, stick with “that” and skip the commas.

Check out my example above. See how if you remove “that has expired” you change the meaning of the sentence? Now you’re saying ALL milk, not just the expired stuff, is gross.  Restrictive = necessary for the sentence to mean what you want. Get it? Use “that.”

NONRESTRICTIVE CLAUSES, on the other hand, can be edited away without changing what anything means. They’re often offset with commas, and in this case “which” is your best bet.

Take a peek at my second example sentence. Go ahead! Cut “which tastes delicious” right the heck out of there and then read it again. See? Nonrestrictive = doesn’t change the meaning of your sentence if you delete it. Use “which.”

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

restrictive clause:

noun
:  an adjective clause so closely attached to its noun as to be essential to the definiteness of the noun’s meaning (as who succeeded in the boy who succeeded had worked hard) — called also determinative clause

nonrestrictive clause:

noun
:  a descriptive clause that adds information but is so loosely attached to the main clause as to be not essential to the definiteness of its meaning and to be marked off from it by commas (as in the aldermen,who were present, assented)

 

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

melissasig

efchappy

Let's chat!