Friday, March 14, 2014

who/that: The Weekend Edition—Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday–Sunday, March 14–16, 2014

There are many instances in which the most conservative usage is to refer to a person using “that”: “All the politicians that were at the party later denied even knowing the host” is actually somewhat more traditional than the more popular “politicians who.” An aversion to “that” referring to human beings as somehow diminishing their humanity may be praiseworthily sensitive, but it cannot claim the authority of tradition. In some sentences, “that” is clearly preferable to “who”: “She is the only person I know of that prefers whipped cream on her granola.” In the following example, to exchange “that” for “who” would be absurd: “Who was it that said, ‘A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle’?”*

The Week's End Extra from the Archives: "One of the best, bar none" (November 7, 2012).

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure my English 101 A professor would have prompted me to shorten the last example sentence to "Who said, 'A woman.....'?" Point being that many times "that" and "who" are redundant or unnecessary.