Friday, 30 September 2016

Which is that?

Hi there,
I was editing a document for a client the other day and there was a line in it that didn't feel right. See what you think:

 "The storms which raged across the town left a trail of destruction."

When you read that sentence, what do you think it's saying?

The problem is that most of us know what is being said, but is it grammatically correct and would we know the difference?

When I read it, I felt a little uncomfortable; I understood what was being expressed but I didn't know why.

So, I did some research and today - you lucky, lucky peeps - I'm going to share it with you!

 The word that is causing the ambiguity, is 'which'. In sentences like the example above, the writer might use 'that' instead of 'which'. For many people the words are interchangeable.

Grammatically speaking, they're not really interchangeable and most of us, myself included, didn't really know why. For me, I would think about the word and just go with whichever felt less uncomfortable. This is probably the approach most people take.

However, there is a rule - of course, when isn't there - and rather than explain the rule to you because I'm not really sure how to, it might be easier to demonstrate how it works.

In the sentence, The storms which raged across the town left a trail of destruction. there is the implication that there were many storms over a period of time. Get it: the storms which raged ...

But if I said, the storms that raged ... the implication is that there was one specific instance when storms raged.

Does that make sense?

Let's look at another example. Think about:

1. Our house that has a blue door ...
2. Our house which has a blue door ...

It's probably a silly example but in the first sentence the implication is that we have a house with a blue door.

In the second sentence, the implication is we have many houses, but we're only talking about the one with the blue door.

Get it?

Oh, and in case you're interested, 'that' and 'which' used in this way are called relative clauses because they can change the meaning of the sentence depending on how they're used.

Oh yeah, this is fun isn't it!? The truth is, however, that in speech, we rarely have the time, or inclination, to stop and consider which word we should be using. Besides that, the person you're speaking to is unlikely to stop and consider it either.

It's only in the written form where your reader may pause because the sentence they've just read doesn't feel right.

Alright then, so I bet you're glad you decided to read my blog today!

Happy Friday

See you in 14!

Thought I'd share this pic of Panda - so cute although I might be biased!

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