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Who or that Options
Todd C. Williams
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 1:46:12 AM

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Location: Camas, Washington, United States
Of these two sentences, which is correct?
1) The managers who came to work.
2) The managers that came to work.

And, what are the rules?

Thank God I had a copy editor for my book.
Gunjika
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 1:48:17 AM
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'The managers who came to work' sounds better.
Todd C. Williams
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 2:40:45 AM

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Location: Camas, Washington, United States
I agree, but I know my copy editor has corrected me. I just don't know the rules.
Man
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 3:32:57 AM
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williamstdd wrote:
Of these two sentences, which is correct?
1) The managers who came to work.
2) The managers that came to work.

And, what are the rules?

Thank God I had a copy editor for my book.


‘Who’ is used only for persons and ‘that’ for things. However, ‘that’ is used for persons, when after ‘all’, ‘any’ ‘only’ ‘it is’ or ’it was’ and after superlatives (best, worst).
Lawrence
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 5:00:53 AM
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The examples are not really sentences - what are they supposed to mean? They seem to be the beginning of two different sentences and if we saw the whole picture then the question could be answered.

It is certainly not a question of things vs people.

For people, the choice is between who and that and for things, between which and that.

The choice hinges on whether we are looking at a defining or a non-defining clause and you can only decide which from the meaning. If it's a defining clause then that is used and for a non-defining clause then who or which is used. That's why we need examples that are proper semantic sentences. A good explanation of the rules for that/which/who can be found here: http://www.bartleby.com/116/205.html. (Note that this is an old edition of Fowler's book and an up-to-date version would probably be more an easier read.)
srirr
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 5:17:15 AM

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I am not able to recall the complete set of rules, but I think commonly "who" is used for person and "that" for things. However in cases where two similar entities appear in the phrase, "who" should be used for the nearer one and "that" should be used for the farther one (in order of appearance). Let me give an example to make myself clear.

I am writing this letter to the brother of my friend who works in my organization. It means my friend works in my organization.
I am writing this letter to the brother of my friend that works in my organization. It means my friend's brother works in my organization.

I would like to be corrected if I am wrong. :) I am forgetting the rules.
Man
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 5:48:33 AM
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Location: Hong Kong
srirr wrote:
I am not able to recall the complete set of rules, but I think commonly "who" is used for person and "that" for things. However in cases where two similar entities appear in the phrase, "who" should be used for the nearer one and "that" should be used for the farther one (in order of appearance). Let me give an example to make myself clear.

I am writing this letter to the brother of my friend who works in my organization. It means my friend works in my organization.
I am writing this letter to the brother of my friend that works in my organization. It means my friend's brother works in my organization.

I would like to be corrected if I am wrong. :) I am forgetting the rules.


With a comma placed after 'my friend' in the second sentence, 'who' is used to indicate 'my friend's brother works in my organizaiton. Both sentences are re-produced below:

I am writing this letter to the brother of my friend who works in my organization. It means my friend works in my organization.
I am writing this letter to the brother of my friend, who works in my organization. It means my friend's brother works in my organization.

RuthP
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 11:43:40 AM

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OK, in English we have: who, that, and which.

"Who" always applies to people. (Some may use it for animals, especially pets, but that is not an "approved" use.)

"That" may be used for people, other living beings, or objects.

"Which" may not be used for people, but is used for other living beings or for objects.

In my mind, it is always better to use "who" for people. I think it is especially important when talking about a specific person.

I am very interested in srirr's differentiation. It appeals to me, but I would not rely on the reader correctly differentiating between those two situations (the friend's brother as coworker vs. the friend as coworker) based on the selection of "who" or "that". To clearly differentiate between the possibilities, I would completely rework the sentences.

I am writing this letter to a friend whose brother is a coworker of mine.
I am writing this letter to the brother of a friend and coworker of mine. OR I am writing this letter to a man who is the brother of a friend and coworker of mine.

You might also do some interesting things by hyphenating "coworker-friend" to specify that relationship.

It may be less true in BE, but in AE the use of "that" has become virtually ubiquitous, so to try to make this distinction based on use of "that" and "who" will not fly.
Todd C. Williams
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 8:43:50 PM

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Joined: 5/25/2009
Posts: 78
Neurons: 10,440
Location: Camas, Washington, United States
Sorry I have been so late to reply. Thanks, I see there is a reason I am having trouble understanding this.
The Bartleby URL does not work for me, is there another way you can point me to it?

TCW
RuthP
Posted: Monday, March 7, 2011 11:14:01 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/2/2009
Posts: 5,408
Neurons: 87,618
Location: Drain, Oregon, United States
williamstdd wrote:
Sorry I have been so late to reply. Thanks, I see there is a reason I am having trouble understanding this.
The Bartleby URL does not work for me, is there another way you can point me to it?

TCW

williamstdd, personally, I think you win. Here is a little backup for you:
Grammar Girl quick and dirty tips: who or that

And, for a little more formal presentation, here is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab:
Purdue OWL: "That" vs. "Who" and "Which" - Scroll down, it's the last section on the page.
mohican
Posted: Monday, March 7, 2011 5:36:16 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/24/2010
Posts: 284
Neurons: 848
Location: Poland
williamstdd wrote:
Of these two sentences, which is correct?
1) The managers who came to work.
2) The managers that came to work.

And, what are the rules?

Thank God I had a copy editor for my book.


Here, the rules are:

i. The relative pronoun 'who', which is the subject of the sentence ('who' = 'The managers'), is normally used in defining relative clauses with persons as their subjects. So, the 1) is correct, the 2) isn't.

ii. The relative pronouns 'who(m)' and 'that' could be used interchangeably, or both omitted altogether, if the noun 'the managers' was put in the sentence as the object of the verb: The managers [who(m)/that] we met at the conference last week. (The noun 'The managers' is the object of the transitive verb 'met' here; 'we met the managers'.)

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