Difference between that and which
That vs which:
One of the main components that make up a language is its grammar. A grammar of the syntax of a language is mostly unique in its aspects. There are many components of grammar such as the tense, the gender, the conjunctions, the prepositions, the relative clauses, and many more. And, the most common feature about almost every grammar in every language is that they have certain confusing parts. And, that is exactly what makes learning grammar difficult. However, among the many sections that English has got ‘confusing’, there are these two words: ‘that’ and ‘which’. Those two words can be interpreted in several ways and the common feature they share is the fact that they are both relative pronouns. Except for that, both that and which play several other role in English grammar and this article will discuss ‘that’ and ‘which’ and their differences as still, a lot of people get confused over differentiating between the two words.
What is ‘that’?
‘That’ in English is generally used to indicate a person, a thing, etc, which are spoken of before, not close to the speaker and listener and etc.
‘That book is mine’.
In the above sentence, the speaker is talking about a book he owns which is apparently not close to him.
‘That won’t work. The thing we discussed earlier.’
Here, ‘that’ is used as a reference marker to previously discussed thing. Thus, the uses of ‘that’ can be simply put. Yet, however, as we are dealing with proper grammar here, ‘that’ should be explained in the proper way, syntactically. The English word ‘that’ servers several grammatical purposes and they are listed below.
To introduce a restrictive relative clause
Ex: He ate the hotdog that belonged to his brother.
As a demonstrative pronoun
Ex: That was awesome!
As a demonstrative adjective
Ex: That guy was arrogant / That book was amazing.
As a subordinating conjunction
Ex: She said that she’d go.
As an adverb
Ex: I didn’t realize she was that ill.
In the third instance, you can observe that ‘that’ is used to indicate both people and things. And, in addition, ‘that’ is the conjunction used in Reported Speech to combine the main clause and the subordinate clause. For instance: Robert told his friend that he would come to the party tomorrow. As such, you can gain an understanding of how the word ‘that’ is used in English.
What is ‘which’?
Now let us focus on ‘which’. In English ‘which’ is used in questions when asking someone to point out, state; one or more persons, and things; from a particular known group. For example:
At which garage I should change the tires?
Tell me which train you’ll be arriving on.
In addition, there are several other grammatical purposes of ‘which’ and they can listed as follows.
As an adjective, pronoun, determiner
Ex: Which book do you like best?
As a relative adjective, relative pronoun
[Used after a comma, to introduce a further comment on something]
Ex: He said he could speak Chinese, which was untrue.
As a relative pronoun
[Used to refer to things mentioned previously to distinguish them from others: able to be replaced by ‘that’ except after a preposition: able to be omitted except after a preposition or when the subject of a clause]
Ex: The chair which you are sitting on is broken.
As such, the occurrences of ‘which’ can be presented and it is to be kept in mind that ‘which’ is used as a relative pronoun only in non-restrictive relative clauses to indicate things. Also, when used as a relative pronoun, ‘which’ cannot be used to indicate people.
What is the difference between ‘which’ and ‘that’?
Even though many people tend to mix up the words and try to use them interchangeably everywhere, they are two different words, of course with few similarities, which almost have unique usages. The differences between the two words are so subtle that sometimes a native English speaker might get mixed up. However, the major and the simplest difference between the two words is that ‘that’ is used in restrictive relative clauses and ‘which’ is used in non-restrictive relative clauses. When used in a restrictive relative clause, ‘that’ generally doesn’t take in a comma, but, when ‘which’ is used in a non-restrictive relative clause, it follows a comma after the main clause. Another difference is that when used in relative clauses ‘that’ can be used to indicate both people and things whereas ‘which’ can only be used to indicate things. Further, ‘that’ can also be used as an adverb while ‘which’ cannot be used so. Moreover, ‘which’ can be used as a determiner in questions while ‘that’ is not used so.