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Subject:Re: It's what It's. OH THAT ONE !! From:"Michael West" <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- com> To:techwr-l Date:Wed, 18 Feb 2004 12:10:33 +1100
Bonnie Granat wrote:
>>> My mother, a grammar nazi, taught me this mnemonic, which might be
>>> remember since it doesn't mention confusing commas: "Use 'which'
>>> only when you can't use 'that'."...........[snip].........
> In UK English, "which" is used restrictively, where in American
> English, we use "that."
> UK: The book which you took yesterday.
> Am: The book that you took yesterday.
> Both are correct (but for different audiences).
Just to clarify something that some may not know,
in British English either of the two constructions
above would be unexceptional. In US English, too,
both would also pass unremarked, except in
formal writing where the applicable style guide
prescribes the that/which distinction. Even in British
English, there are authoritative style guides (Fowler,
for example) that encourage writers to observe the
distinction (there is nothing exclusively American
about it), while ruefully noting that in practice it is
not done much, even among some of the very best
Complicating matters further, there is an issue of
"register" involved. Many educated British English
speakers have the notion that "which" in a restrictive
clause is more "literary" than "than". While they might
*say* "the house that Jack built", they would "correct"
it, when writing, to "the house which Jack built."
As Fowler put it:
"The relations between that, who, and which
have come down to us from our forefathers
as an odd jumble ..." [_Modern English Usage_