That or Which? Rules That Every College Student Should Know

There are quite a few people who use which and that interchangeably and it is easy to see how one might make such a mistake. This is particularly true for college students who are required to write academic essays and papers in English. Well, regardless of how you feel about it, though, there are specific grammar rules for these words.

So if you are having trouble figuring out how and when to use that versus which, this article will show you everything that you need to know. Here, you will discover what each of these words means and understand when it is appropriate to use them.

Main Rule of Using Words That and Which

Before getting into the thick of the "that vs. which" argument, you will first need to gain a bit more understanding of clauses. Once you have grasped that concept, you can then move onto learning how each of these terms operates within a sentence.

Sentences that require the words which or that, can contain one of two clauses. These are known as either defining or non-defining clauses. In certain instances, they are also referred to as restrictive and non-restrictive clauses as well.

Now, if you are introducing important information in a sentence, then you should use 'that'. However, if you are adding details that don’t really change the meaning of the sentence, then you will have to use 'which'. This is the main theory behind when to use that or which.

Examples on How to Use Which in Writing

Now that you are aware of the difference between that and which, here are some examples of how to use which in college writing:

The living room was just beyond the hallway, which was also adorned with expensive trinkets.

Speaking of which, where had Sarah gone?

Vehicles, which are usually pricey when purchased new, can make it easier for you to move around

Now, let's consider some examples of how that is used in sentences so that you get a better understanding of the differences:

Cats that swim are better adapted to all environments

Mary gave Sarah notes for topics that would appear on the test.

The judges gave high marks to all the gymnasts that displayed originality.

Main tips to Remember When to Use That and Which

If all of this information is confusing you, let’s make this concept a little simpler by providing you with a few tips and tricks to remember these rules by:

  • Consider the words that you want to use after 'which' or 'that. Is this information important to the sentence? If it is, then you should use 'that'. If the details aren’t relevant, though, you can use 'which'.
  • Be aware of the information you want to emphasize. For instance, consider these sentences:

The couch, which has a torn cushion, was in the garage.

The couch that has a torn cushion was in the garage.

In the first sentence, the emphasis is on the couch being in the garage. The torn cushion is simply a descriptor. In the second sentence, though, the importance is placed on the torn cushion. This shows the reader that there may be more than one cushion in the garage.

Based on this, you can use which or that, depending on what part of the sentence you want your readers to pay attention to.


Even with this guide to help you, there is no denying that this is a rather difficult concept to master. To reduce the number of mistakes that you make while writing an essay, consider using an online writing and editing service. Here, you will be able to choose a writer and buy literature essay from them. This will provide you with insight on how to structure your essays better.

Remember, it is much better to get academic assistance early on, especially when writing papers or essays. You will then be able to correct any errors prior to handing your work in. Thus, you are able to gain better marks from this edited work.

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