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That which what (1 Viewer)

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
We all laugh when Ernie says 'Here is a play what I wrote' rather than 'that I wrote'. I know it is not right to say 'It is not as good as that which what I wrote earlier', even though I could make a good sentence with any one of those words

Not as good as the play that I wrote earlier
Not as good as the play which I wrote earlier
Not as good as what I wrote earlier,
but not 'the play what I wrote earlier.'

But I am finding it difficult to explain exactly why to my 'English as a second language' friend, can anyone help me out in relatively simple terms? We learn these things by rote and know what sounds 'right', but rarely learn 'why'.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
In my WIP I have a character who is confused by all these small words. So he just substitutes "er" in for all of them; eg:

"Not er 'ood as er play I 'ote earlier"
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
I think there is a meaning for "that" used as a determiner (that tree). If you think "that" can be used as a pronoun (I like that), the meaning is exactly the same. If "that" can be used as an adverb (Yes, he was that tall; yes he acted that bravely) it still has the same meaning.

But as a personal pronoun (the play that I wrote earlier), "that" doesn't have the same meaning. It's close, but I can't explain how the meaning as personal pronoun would come from the meaning as determiner.

There seem to be similar problems with "which." And why are the personal pronouns "that" and "which" used in the first place?

So I will go for history and current practice -- we don't use "what" as a relative pronoun.
 

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
We all laugh when Ernie says 'Here is a play what I wrote' rather than 'that I wrote'. I know it is not right to say 'It is not as good as that which what I wrote earlier', even though I could make a good sentence with any one of those words

Not as good as the play that I wrote earlier
Not as good as the play which I wrote earlier
Not as good as what I wrote earlier,
but not 'the play what I wrote earlier.'

But I am finding it difficult to explain exactly why to my 'English as a second language' friend, can anyone help me out in relatively simple terms? We learn these things by rote and know what sounds 'right', but rarely learn 'why'.

I think the problem in your examples is, both words are unnecessary in the sentence. "Not as good as the play I wrote earlier," is a better, leaner construction. Adding 'that' or 'which' is unnecessary as neither word adds anything to the clarity of the sentence. In fact, since using either seems to create confusion, they actually make the sentence less clear.

'That' introduces a restrictive clause -- a clause the sentence needs for clarity. 'Which' introduces a non-restrictive clause -- one that adds information, but is not necessary for the sentence to make sense.

Here's a link to a good article about the difference: https://prowritingaid.com/art/438/-Which--or--That-:-Know-When-to-Use-Each.aspx
 
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