There’s an 80% chance you have been using “which” and “that” incorrectly in your daily written and spoken communications. These two words often seem interchangeable, but they are not. Below we’ll walk through when you should use each of the words “that” and “which” so that you can use them correctly going forward.
The Word “That”
We use “that” in sentences that have a defining clause. A defining or restrictive or essential clause is an integral part of a sentence. A sentence does not make sense without it. If a sentence does not make sense without the phrase, we use “that” in the sentence.
Here is an example:
Peter came home in the jumper that he bought yesterday.
In this sentence, the word “that” is used to help the reader comprehend the jumper that belongs to Peter that we are referring to in the sentence. Without it, it would be challenging to know the particular jumper that we are referring to in the sentence. This distinction can be more difficult if Peter owns many jumpers.
The word “which”
We use the word “which” in sentences that have non-defining clauses. These sentences still make sense without the clause. To test whether a sentence should use “which,” you can remove the non-restrictive clause without destroying or altering the meaning of the sentences. We use “which” if the sentence makes sense without the clause.
Here is an example:
My rental property, which I am selling, will have an open House Tomorrow.
The non-defining clause in this sentence does not change the meaning. The sentence will still make sense without it.
How to know when to use “that” or “which”
A simple way to remember when to use that vs which is the remove the clause the follows the word “which” or “that.” If the sentence makes sense without the clause, then you can use the word “which.” Otherwise, you should use the word “that.”
We often use which and that interchangeably. However, there is a discussion between the two. Remember, identify the clauses to know whether to use which or that in a sentence. Once you know, defining and non-defining clauses, choosing the right word will be easy.