All About THAT


Posted May 12, 2017

When writing your dissertation, following proper grammar rules ensures that your writing is produced at the highest scholarly level. This blog covers the proper use of the word that as a pronoun or as a restrictive clause.

That vs. Who

A pronoun must agree in gender (i.e., masculine, feminine, or neuter) with the noun it replaces.  This rule extends to relative pronouns: pronouns that link subordinate clauses to nouns.  Use who for human beings; use that or which for nonhuman animals or things (APA6, 3.20).

Correct:

  • The teenagers who broke into the zoo were quickly apprehended; the lions that escaped were not.

Incorrect:

  • The zookeepers that caught the teenagers were awarded a medal; the lions who escaped were not.

Relative pronouns introduce an element that is subordinate to the main clause of the sentence and reflects the relationship of the subordinate element to the main clause. Therefore, select these pronouns with care; interchanging them may reduce the precision of your meaning.

That vs. Which

That clauses (called restrictive) are essential to the meaning of the sentence.  Which clauses can merely add further information (nonrestrictive) or can be essential to the meaning of the sentence.  APA prefers to reserve which for nonrestrictive clauses and use that in restrictive.

Restrictive

  • The cards that worked well in the first experiment were not useful in the second experiment. [Only those cards that worked well in the first experiment were not useful in the second; prefer]

Nonrestrictive

  • The cards, which worked well in the first experiment, were not useful in the second experiment. [The second experiment was not appropriate for the cards.]

 

Consistent use of that for restrictive clauses and which for nonrestrictive clauses, which are set-off with commas, will help make your writing clear and precise.
A pronoun must agree in gender (i.e., masculine, feminine, or neuter) with the noun it replaces. This rule extends to relative pronouns: pronouns that link subordinate clauses to nouns. Use who for human beings; use that or which for nonhuman animals or things (APA6, 3.20).
Correct:
The teenagers who broke into the zoo were quickly apprehended; the lions that escaped were not.
Incorrect:
The zookeepers that caught the teenagers were awarded a medal; the lions who escaped were not.
Relative pronouns introduce an element that is subordinate to the main clause of the sentence and reflects the relationship of the subordinate element to the main clause. Therefore, select these pronouns with care; interchanging them may reduce the precision of your meaning.

That vs. Which
That clauses (called restrictive) are essential to the meaning of the sentence. Which clauses can merely add further information (nonrestrictive) or can be essential to the meaning of the sentence. APA prefers to reserve which for nonrestrictive clauses and use that in restrictive.
Restrictive
The cards that worked well in the first experiment were not useful in the second experiment. [Only those cards that worked well in the first experiment were not useful in the second; prefer that.]author nicole
Nonrestrictive
The cards, which worked well in the first experiment, were not useful in the second experiment. [The second experiment was not appropriate for the cards.]

Consistent use of that for restrictive clauses and which for nonrestrictive clauses, which are set-off with commas, will help make your writing clear and precise.

Want more APA tips and tricks? No problem, we've created a style guide that will take you through the basics and beyond. Fill out the form to the right to request your APA Style Guide: Basics and Beyond download now!


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