That vs. Which

Add a modifying clause that identifies the noun

Bottled Water
 

 

An Identifying vs. Nonidentifying Relative Clause 

AN IDENTIFYING RELATIVE CLAUSE  — THAT / WHICH

An identifying clause (restrictive, relative) adds information or narrows the noun to a specific one, group or lot.  The clause helps by telling us which one. The pronoun that is more commonly, but which is used when it is preceded by a preposition. NO COMMAS are used to set off the clause. 

The water that I drank last night contained sodium. (identifies the specific one) 

The car that runs off of a lithium-ion battery is surprisingly fast.

The problem about which I wrote is the subject of today's lecture.

The prison that is located in San Francisco Bay was a depressing place to live.

A NON-IDENTIFYING RELATIVE CLAUSE — WHICH

A non-identifying (nonrestrictive) clause adds extra information about a noun already identified by other means, for example, by name, by shared knowledge or context. The clause is just adding  interesting information. Which  (not that) is used in a nonidentifying clause. Commas are used. 

The Evian water, which I drank last night, contained sodium. (adds extra info)

The Tesla, which runs off of a lithium-ion battery, is surprisingly fast.

The Lost Generation, about which I wrote, is the subject of today's lecture.

Alcatraz Prison, which is located in San Francisco Bay, was a depressing place to live.

 

lithium-ion battery (n.) – a type of battery used in laptops
depressing
(adj.) – causing to feel sad
prison (n) – a building where people are kept as punishment for a crime
Also see Parentheses or dashes  Commas – comments

 

 

Exception — Preposition + Which

AN IDENTIFYING CLAUSE  — IN/ ON/ AT WHICH

Which is used in an identifying clause when preceded by a preposition:  in which, on which, about which, etc.  Placing the preposition at the end of the clause is informal.

The day on which it happened was Thursday. (for.)

~The day which it happened on was Thursday.  (inf.)

*The day that it happened on was Thursday.

*The day on that it happened was Thursday.

The day that it happened was Thursday.
 

A NON-IDENTIFYING CLAUSE — WHICH

The preposition is not placed before which in a nonidentifying clause.

The day, which you wrote down, was Thursday.

*The day, down which you wrote, was Thursday.

 

 

 
   

 

~ use by some speakers; very informal to others
* not used
unlisted (adj.) – not available to the public, not in the telephone book

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restrictive Clauses

Identifying Words, Phrases and Clauses

Grocery store
 

 

In what ways can a noun become "identified"?

IDENTIFYING MODIFIER

A noun becomes known to both listener and speaker when both share knowledge about which one it is. Both see, or both know: by name, by phrase or by clause information that specifies exactly which one.

NO MODIFIER

The store sells organic produce.     Which store?
(Not identified!)

AN IDENTIFYING CLAUSE

The store where I shop sells organic produce.
(The noun is  identified by the clause "where I shop".) 

AN IDENTIFYING PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE

The store on University Avenue sells organic produce.
The noun is  identified by the phrase "on University Avenue".

We went to Whole Foods on University Avenue.
(The proper noun is identified by name and by the clause: there are three Whole Foods stores in the city.) 

AN IDENTIFYING PROPER NOUN

The store called Whole Foods sells organic produce.
(The noun "store" is  identified by the clause.)  

INDENTIFIED BY LATER MENTION IN THE SENTENCE

The store that sells organic produce is Whole Foods.
The noun is  identified by the modifying clause and by later mention in the sentence. 

INDENTIFIED BY EARLIER MENTION IN THE SENTENCE

I like Whole Foodsthe store sells organic produce.
The noun is  identified by a noun in the independent clause before it.

A RESTRICTIVE CLAUSE (A PARTICULAR AREA)

The Whole Foods stores in San Francisco sell Napa Valley cheese.
Whole Foods is identified by name and is further modified by "in San Francisco".  This modifier refers to a restricted group or a particular "Whole Foods" .)
 

IDENTIFIED BY NAME AND UNIQUENESS

The Golden Gate Bridge is actually orange-red.
The bridge is unique and identified by name. No identifying clause can be used. 

NON-IDENTIFYING MODIFIER

A noun that is already known to both speaker and listener can be embellished with a modifier that adds closely related information, or a side comment that adds loosely related information. See  Comma -comments

NO MODIFIER

Whole Foods sells organic produce.
(The proper noun Whole Foods is identified by name.)

A  NON-IDENTIFYING MODIFYING CLAUSE

Whole Foods, where I shop, sells organic produce.
(The proper noun Whole Foods is identified by name; "where I shop" is extra information).

A  NON-IDENTIFYING PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE

Whole Foods, on University Avenue, sells organic produce.
(Whole Foods is identified by name, the clause is extra information, assuming there is only one on University.)

We went to the Berkeley Whole Foods, on University Avenue.
(No final comma is used when the clause identifies the object noun and the clause ends the sentence.)

A  NON-IDENTIFYING MODIFYING CLAUSE

Whole Foods, a grocery store, sells organic produce.
(Whole Foods is identified by name. The comment "a grocery store" is extra.)

 

 

A  NONRESTRICTIVE CLAUSE

Whole Foods, where shoppers bring their own bags, sells organic produce.
Whole Foods is identified by name. The modifying clause is extra information, which is true of all WF stores.

A  NON-IDENTIFYING MODIFYING CLAUSE

The Golden Gate Bridge, which is actually orange-red, is surrounded by fog.
The Golden Gate bridge is modified with extra information that is not necessary for its identification.

 

NOTE:  "where I shop" = "in which I shop" = "which I shop in" (informal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modifying Clause (Relative Clause)

Punctuation

 

 

 

An identifying vs. Nonidentifying Clause

IDENTIFYING CLAUSE

no comma usedA clause that identifies the noun before it (tells you which one) is not set off with commas.

The man  that lives next door is a marathon runner

Jack hired the gardener (whom) you recommended.

NON-IDENTIFYING CLAUSE

use a commaA clause that adds extra, nonidentifying information is set off with comma(s).  The object pronoun cannot be omitted.

Jack Trainer,  who lives next door, is a marathon runner.  

Jack hired Mr. Lee, whom¹ you recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

London Bridge
 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*The London Bridge which it was in England is now in Arizona. 
Pop-Q "Bridge"

*The marine iguana that eats algae in the sea is only found in the Galapagos Islands. 

Pop-Q -"That / Which

*Alcatraz Island surrounded by fog was a depressing place to serve time in prison.
Pop-Q "Alcatraz"

SOLUTION

The London Bridge, which was in England, is now in Arizona. Remove itUse commas because the clause is not necessary to identify the bridge.

The marine iguana, which eats algae in the sea, is only found in the Galapagos Islands. algae (n.) – a simple plant without stems or leaves that grows in or near ocean water 

There marine iguana (in the Galapagos) is unique.  The modifying clause adds extra information. Add commas.

Alcatraz Island, surrounded by fog, was a depressing place to serve time in prison.

The island is identified by name.  The modifying clause adds extra information. Add commas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Which City?

map of the city
 

 

Read for Errors

I'm thinking of a well-known city which is about 49º latitude north of the equator. The river that runs through the center of the city is an important commercial waterway. There are two islands which the river flows around. The highest point of this city that is relatively flat is 130m/115ft above sea level. The river flows north through the city to the English Channel which is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean.

The island named Ile de la Cité that is in the oldest part of the city has a beautiful Gothic cathedral. A cathedral, which was named "Our Lady", was completed in the year 1342. The Champs-Élysées, which is a grand boulevard, leads to the Place de Concorde. The Louvre which is one of the world's largest museums is also a historic monument. By now, you know that the city that I am thinking of is Paris.

 

 

 

Decide whether the modifying clause is used correctly.

  1. Select the response correct or incorrect.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or the "Check 1-10" button.

 

1.
latitudeI'm thinking of a well-known city which is about 49 degrees latitude north of the equator.

   

2.
The river that runs through the center of the city is an important commercial waterway.

   

3.
There are two islands which the river flows around

   

4.
The highest point of this city that is relatively flat is 130m/115ft above sea level.

   

5.
The river flows north through the city to the English Channel which is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean.

   

6.
The island named Ile de la Cité that is in the oldest part of the city has a beautiful Gothic cathedral.

   

7.
The cathedral, which was named "Our Lady", was completed in the year 1342. 

   

8.
The Champs-Élysées, which is a grand boulevard, leads to the Place de Concorde.

   

9.
The Louvre that is one of the world's largest museums is also a historic monument.

   

10.
By now, you know that the city that I am thinking of is Paris.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

The San Francisco Bay Area

Bay Area Satellite
 

 

Read the Paragraph

The San Francisco Bay Area is a "web" of bridges. It is home to many popular and prominent Internet companies

The most famous landmark in San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge. It spans the entrance San Francisco Bay.

To the north, there are two more bridges. They cross relatively short distances. 

The northernmost bridge spans the Carquinez strait. It forms a part of Interstate 80.

The San Rafael-Richmond Bridge is a 5.5mi/8.85km long bridge. It is the second longest bridge in the Bay Area.

The bridge to the south is actually a pair of bridges. It links Oakland to San Francisco.

One span links San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island. It is a suspension bridge. 

The other span links Yerba Buena to Oakland. This is a city in the East Bay.

A new bridge has been built to replace this old span. It was damaged in the 1989 earthquake.

The next bridge is commonly called the San Mateo Bridge. It is to the south. It is the longest bridge (7mi/11.3km).

Finally, the Dumbarton Bridge is the southernmost bridge. It links the East Bay to Silicon Valley.

These seven bridges allow commuters to get to work and home more directly. They connect the highway system in the Bay Area.

character (n.) – unique quality

Interstate 80 – a major state highways

link (v.) – connect

northernmost/ southernmost – superlative form

pair (n.)  – two identical, similar, or corresponding things that are matched for use together:

prominent (adj.) – well known; standing out

relative (adj.) – on thing that is considered in relation or in comparison to another

span (v.) – reaches across, connects; (n.) a bridge

suspension (n.) – a design in which the roadway hangs from cables

 

 

 

 

Join the clauses to remove "wordiness" from the paragraph.

  1. Edit the sentence in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or the "Check 11-20" button.
11.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a "web" of bridges. It is home to many popular and prominent Internet companies.


12.
The most famous landmark in San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge. It spans the entrance San Francisco Bay.


13.
To the north, there are two more bridges. They cross relatively short distances. 


14.
The northernmost bridge spans the Carquinez strait. It forms a part of Interstate 80.


15.
The San Rafael-Richmond Bridge is a 5.5mi/8.85km long bridge. It is the second longest bridge in the Bay Area.


16.
The bridge to the south is actually a pair of bridges. It links Oakland to San Francisco.


17.
One span links San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island. It is a suspension bridge. 


18.
The other span, which links Yerba Buena to Oakland. This is a city in the East Bay.


19.
A new bridge has been built to replace this old span. It was damaged in the 1989 earthquake.


20.
The bridge is commonly called the San Mateo Bridge. It is to the south. It is the longest bridge (7mi/11.3km).


21.
Finally, the Dumbarton Bridge is the southernmost bridge. It links the East Bay to Silicon Valley.


22.
These seven bridges allow commuters to get to work and home more directly. They connect the highway system in the Bay Area.


 

 

 

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