Tag Archives: conjunctions

“That” vs. “Which”

The difference between “that” and “which”, and how to choose between them, has been the subject of much debate. It took me a long time to finally understand the distinction, but once you do understand the difference, the clarity of your writing will improve significantly.

You can use this very simple rule of thumb: in most cases, the correct word you want to use to introduce a clause is that (not which), and whenever you use which, it must be preceded by a comma. The choice is between that or “[comma], which” — and if you’re not sure, use that.

So, why is that appropriate in most cases instead of which?  That is used to introduce restrictive clauses: clauses required for the sentence to be grammatically and logically sensible. Which, on the other hand, is used to introduce non-restrictive clauses: clauses that give additional information that is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence.

Consider the following sentence:

  • “My car that is parked out front is the Batmobile.”

In this sentence, the clause “that is parked out front” is restrictive — it helps define “My car” by identifying that although I have more than one car, the one parked out front happens to be the Batmobile.

Compare to this sentence:

  • “My car, which is parked out front, is the Batmobile.”

Notice the difference in meaning? In this sentence, which introduces a non-restrictive clause. This sentence tells you that I own only one car, and it’s the Batmobile. And, incidentally, it’s parked out front, but you didn’t need to know that for the meaning of “My car” to be clear.

There are several ways to make sure you get this right:

  • First, always use a comma before which and never use a comma before that. This will ensure that your reader knows that you intend which to be non-restrictive and that to be restrictive, as they should be.
  • Second, if you’re unsure, use that and not which.
  • Third, try removing the clause from the sentence. If it can be removed from the sentence without changing the logical meaning (if it’s extraneous, additional information), then use which; otherwise, use that.

Knowing proper grammatical style can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. If you are planning to do test prep for any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!

 

“Like” vs. “As”

The words like and as are used for comparisons, but people often use the word like for all comparisons, instead of using the appropriate word for each circumstance.

Like is a preposition that should be used to compare two nouns or noun phrases, and is used like an adjective (to modify one noun and show its comparability to another noun.

As, on the other hand, is a conjunction that is used to connect and compare verbs or verb clauses, and is used like an adverb (to describe or compare the manner of an action being taken).

Consider:

  • “To John, his cell phone is like a piece of sports equipment — one day and the screen’s already cracked.”
  • “John treats his cell phone as he treats his baseball glove — toss it on the floor when he’s done. No surprise it’s so scratched up.”

Just remember, whenever you’re comparing actions, use as instead of like:

  • Although many adults think modern pop music is like the product of a marketing committee pandering to poor taste, modern pop music isn’t any worse than it was 30 years ago: young people simply have different tastes from adults, as they always have.

The difference between like and as is tested on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. Knowing proper grammatical style can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on standardized tests. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!

“If” vs. “Whether”

The distinction between if and whether is interesting and important, but not many people know or observe the distinction. However, using if and whether correctly is essential for clarity in writing and speaking.

The word if should be used only to introduce a conditional statement.

The word whether should be used when you are discussing a choice to be made.

Consider the difference between the following two sentences:

“I know that if I eat this large pizza with peppers and anchovies right before bed, I’ll probably have some strange dreams and feel bad tomorrow.”

“I can’t decide whether to eat this large pizza with peppers and anchovies, or just go straight to bed.”

In contrast, the incorrect usage would be to say “I can’t decide if I’m going to eat this large pizza…”

If you have trouble telling the difference, look to see if there’s a then to go with the if — is there a result that will happen if the if is fulfilled? If so, use if, and if you’re discussing a choice to be made, use whether.

Knowing the proper grammatical use of words can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!