Question 6 – which or that

Ask the wise old owl

Wise Old Owl

What is the difference between “which” and “that”?

Often these words are used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

The part of the sentence with “which” is usually surrounded by commas and the sentence would make sense without it. This part of the sentence just gives additional information.

Look at these two sentences:
1. The expensive ornament, which was in the lounge, was broken.
2. The expensive ornament that was in the lounge was broken.

In sentence one, the “which was in the lounge”, just gives us additional information about the expensive ornament.

Sentence two suggests that there are a number of expensive ornaments, but we are referring specifically to the one in the lounge. If the “that was in the lounge” were taken away, the sentence would not be complete because we don’t know which expensive ornament was damaged.

More articles in this series

If you want to read the rest of the articles in this series, go to the wise old owl’s main page.

More from English with Kirsty

If you would like more articles like this and other news from English with Kirsty to be delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter.


3 Comments on “Question 6 – which or that”

  1. Could I ask some question? The difference is the structure of the sentence? There is no difference of the meaning right? When it comes to grammar, I am a little bit confused.

  2. Hi!

    Often people use the words interchangeably and there is no difference in meaning.

    However sometimes, as in the example here, there could be a difference in meaning.

    1. The expensive ornament, which was in the lounge, was broken.
    The expensive ornament was broken. It was in the lounge when it happened.

    2. The expensive ornament that was in the lounge was broken.
    There may be a number of expensive ornaments in the house, but we are specifically talking about the one in the lounge.

    If you can take away the part of the sentence and the sentence still makes sense, you need “which”. If you need the additional words for the sentence to make sense, you need “that”.

    This sentence makes sense:
    My new sofa is very comfortable.

    We can add additional information, such as:
    My new sofa , which I bought last week, is very comfortable.
    However we don’t need “which I bought last week” to understand the main point of the sentence, which is the fact that my sofa is very comfortable. It’s just extra information.

    I hope that helps.

  3. Oh, I get it now. Thank you for spending time answering my question. <3


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s