Re: [Czechlist] which : that
- JPKIRCHNER@... wrote:
> (1) I had a quick look at the text that looks just fine to me.Great explanation. Fully agree. "Me, too'ing" just in case it helps
>This sentence means that there are two or more texts, and you are talking
>about the particular one that looks fine to you. The others don't look fine.
> (2) I had a quick look at the text, which looks just fine to me.
>In this version (with "which" and a comma) you are talking about only one
>text, and by the way, it looks fine to you.
anyone to know there's consensus.
- Jamie wrote:
> (1) I had a quick look at the text that looks just fine to me.little strange, even though it would be correct.
>You could use "which" here instead of "that", but it would sound a
Yes, "which" is a correct alternative in such defining clauses and yet
it does often sound odd and I find it tantalizing trying to figure out
As you say, it could be because of the potential confusion with
non-defining clauses. I'd say it can sound over-deliberate in many
informal contexts but elsewhere it can sound OK. This is my theory:
a) Rightly or wrongly, "which" is perceived by many to be "higher
style" and so preferable (even in defining relative clauses, Fowler
notwithstanding) in legal and formal business texts.
b) "Which" is felt to convey discernment and deliberation. It is often
preferred in situations where choices are to be made: "Select the
pension plan which best suits your needs...." It is also
sometimes preferred when we wish to underline the fact that we are
Does this sound plausible? I'd welcome any alternative theories.
The following is from Michael Quinion's World Wide Words site:
There remain some situations in which "that" is still regarded as
preferable to "which", though they're difficult to tie down. Here are
some instances, but don't take them as a full list of cases, and they
are tendencies, not full-blown rules:
In clauses that follow impersonal constructions, such as it is, "that"
is preferred: "It was the dog that died".
Clauses which refer back to the words anything, nothing, something, or
everything have a slight preference for "that" over
"which": "Can you think of anything that still has to be done?"
Clauses which follow a superlative also tend to prefer "that": "Thank
you for the most superb dinner that I've ever eaten".
In part, it seems probable that this preference is derived from stress
and rhythm. The word "that" contains 'soft' sounds and is usually
unstressed, whilst "which" contains a 'harder' initial sound and is
easier to stress. Several writers note that "that" tends to be
preferred in speech, which may be due to the comparative ease with
which "that is" and similar phrases can be contracted, to "that's",
compared with the equivalent expressions using "which".
If you wish to write naturally, don't fuss too much about the usage of
"that" versus "which". Obsessive correction (what has sarcastically
been called a "which hunt") is best avoided. If your sense of the
language is not strong enough to be sure of the right pronoun, use
that for the restrictive cases and which for the others and you won't
She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can always tell the
others by their hunted expression. - C. S. Lewis