Monday, November 10, 2008

Pay Attention, Class: Which vs. That

Today's post will be a brief explanation of when to use "which" and when to use "that." I know that you're just next to yourselves with excitement, but try to contain yourselves.

OK, I'm going to explain this in layperson's terms, because I think you lose and turn off more people by using the kind of explanation given by demanding English teachers ... the kind of teachers who make some kids just hate English.

So, let's say that we're talking about cake -- chocolate cake with chocolate frosting coated with chocolate shavings. There is only one cake, sadly, so there's no confusion over this one or that one -- there is only one. However, I need to tell you something about the cake; specifically, I need to tell you where it is.

The cake, which is in the kitchen, is all mine.

That's it: one cake and "oh, by the way, here's a little bit of extra information about that one cake."

Now let's say that there are two -- no, three! -- cakes. We have the original chocolate cake, a Costco sheet cake, and a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Because I live in the house with Skimbleshanks and Buddha Boy, I have to hide the cakes around the house. (By the way, we have found that hiding the Halloween candy in the hamper is the way to go. What is it with boys and hampers?) Anyway, because I have more than one cake, I have to be specific when I'm referring to cake, right?

The cake that is hidden in the dryer is the carrot cake.

That's all there is to it, pretty much. Use "which" when you're adding a little extra information about the thing (noun) you just mentioned. Use "that" when you're identifying the thing. If you follow these guidelines, you'll be right on the money most of the time.

Now it's time to check out that "laundry" in the hamper.

1 comment:

  1. Good one! Explained well and I do suffer from that of which you write.