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Study Tip: Who, Which or That?

30th April 2017

Do you know when to use ‘who’, ‘which’ and ‘that’ in speaking or writing?  These are very common words but it doesn’t mean that they are easy to use.  They often cause a lot of confusion. So let’s look at examples.

First of all, we use relative clauses to give more information about a noun (people and things) without starting another sentence. By combining sentences with a relative pronoun (who, which, that) your text becomes more fluent and you avoid repetition.

Here are some examples:

I bought a new car, which is very fast.

Do you know the girl who studies at Celtic English Academy?

The man that you met is my teacher.

But when do we use who and which? What about that?




Use ‘who’ for people.

 e.g. This is the girl who goes to school with me.

This is a defining clause. So the information after “who” helps us to define the girl.


Use ‘which’ for things or animals.

e.g. This is the car which I bought yesterday.

This is a defining clause. So the information after “which” helps us to define the car.


In defining clauses we can use “that in place of who and which. Notice that in defining clauses there are no commas.

Who and which are also used in non-defining clauses. These sentences give us extra information about the noun and are not essential. The extra information is separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.

My sister, who lives in Bristol, is a teacher.

Hamlet, which was written by Shakespeare, is my favourite play.


Test your knowledge.


 For more Study Tips, you can read our Study Tips posts.  

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