the difference between which and that

Sunday, June 15, 2008

that vs. which: Think of "which" as an aside--a sidenote.


My trailer, which is also on fire, is a Winnebago

The main idea of the sentence is that the trailer is a Winnebago. That the trailer is on fire has little to no bearing on the company that manufactured it; it's just an interesting little sidenote.

"That" should be used when you need to make a distinction, such as

Of all the trailers, mine is the one that caught fire

If you're not sure whether you're writing a distinction or an aside, try adding "by the way" after each "that" or "which"; if it seems right, then it's probably "which"; if not, it's probably "that."

Or you could just read this sentence by Nietszche

That which we find words for is that which we cannot hold in our heart

until you go insane.