How to Choose Between Which and That

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When do you use that?

When do you use which?

That is used and applicable to defining clauses.
Which is used and applicable to non-defining clauses.

Because we haven’t covered and recognized what Defining & Non-defining clauses are.
Defining clauses (also referred to as restrictive clauses) give us essential information about the words they modify. They help disseminate the intended significance.


Example: My shirt that has no inscription is in the wardrobe.


Non-defining clauses on the other hand provide additional information. Nonetheless, the information is not crucial to the meaning of the sentence itself. In fact, the sentence would still make sense if you removed the non-profit defining clause.

Example: My shirt, which has no inscription, is in the wardrobe.

Remember, which can be discarded from a sentence. If you can remove the clause without destroying the meaning of the sentence, the clause is unnecessary and you can use which.


Just because these words (which & that) are widespread, it doesn’t mean they’re simple to exploit. Specifically, clauses inflict a lot of confusion, but there’s a simple way to remember which one to choose.

Understanding when to use Which & That


To understand when and how to use that or which, it’s important to recognize clauses.

A defining clause (also referred to as an essential clause or a restrictive clause) gives information essential to the meaning of the sentence. That is used in defining clauses. Look at the example below:

My shirt that has no inscription is in the wardrobe.


In this sentence, you understand that the speaker has at least more than one shirt. Particularly, the shirt he’s talking about is distinguished from his other shirts by its inscription. If you removed the clause “that has no inscription,” you would lose the meaning that he owns more than one shirt, and even if you knew about the other shirt, you wouldn’t know which one was in the wardrobe.


Which presents non-defining clauses. Unlike defining clauses, non-defining clauses (also referred to as nonessential or nonrestrictive clauses) don’t limit the meaning of the sentence. Interesting details are lost if they are removed, but the meaning of the sentence wouldn’t change. Sometimes, these phrases are set off by commas.

My shirt, which has no inscription, is in the wardrobe.

Here, the “inscription” is simply a description of the shirt in the wardrobe. There’s no implication that the speaker possesses more than one shirt. Do you recognize the difference?

How do you Remember the Discrepancy Between That and Which

It’s easy to remember to use which because non-defining clauses add additional information. They are easily discarded, and so are clauses with which. Here are some examples:

Examples of That and Which

Example: I have come a long way in the last few years. I’ve experienced countless failures and successes (more of the latter, which is why I’m with you right now)
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Example: This is completely a great topic and it can encompass anything that involves your transformation as a person.
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Example: There is nothing more painful than the loss of your life and loved ones when you realize that there is nothing you can do to help your beloved and what you adore the most.
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Which and that are widespread terms, but they are essential. By recognizing your clauses as defining or non-defining, you can easily remember when to use which and when to use that. If you are ready to learn more, study up on developing your best writing.

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