Is It "Which" or "That"?

Mignon Fogarty,
June 23, 2010

Is It

Is It "Which" or "That"?

Do you know when you should say "which" and when you should say "that"? Is it "Movies, which star Johnny Depp, make me happy," or "Movies that star Johnny Depp make me happy"?

Here's the quick and dirty tip: You use "that" with a restrictive element and "which" with a nonrestrictive element. As you just read, when a restrictive element is left out, it changes the meaning of the sentence. That must mean the "Johnny Depp" part of the sentence is restrictive, because without it, the sentence changes; not all movies make me happy--just the ones starring Johnny Depp. Therefore, the correct sentence is "Movies that star Johnny Depp make me happy." You can read more about "which" and "that" in restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses in my full episode on the subject.


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