Grammar Bomb: That VS Which

I like to read books that you like. I read the books you told me to, which you left on the table.



That [THINK: restrictive; limits meaning; no comma]
Which [THINK: nonrestrictive; supply extra info; comma required]


“In formal American English, that is used in restrictive clauses, and which in used in nonrestrictive clauses.”

“A restrictive clause contains information that limits the meaning of the thing being talked about….Note that in restrictive clauses, sometimes that can be omitted.”

A nonrestrictive clauseis used to supply additional information that is not essential to understanding the main point of the sentence…it adds extra information, almost like an aside. You could delete the details…and the sentence would still make sense.”

[read more about it on]

Which or That?

[found on; by Gary Kinder]

“The difference between “that” and “which” might be the most confounding piece of grammar in the English language, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what you need to know: Grammarians call the words following a “that” or a “which” a “relative clause.” That relative clause either “restricts” (I like the word “distinguishes” better, but grammar texts have long called the word “that” “restrictive”) what it modifies, or it “does not restrict” what it modifies. The writer tells us which it is by the word he chooses to introduce the clause.

“That” at the beginning restricts; it means that the writer wants the relative clause to distinguish one thing from a universe of like things. “Which” at the beginning means the writer addresses only one thing, and he simply wants to add information.”

[found on]