Monday, March 21, 2011

Who and that

It's aggravating when a writer says "that" when he means who.

She was the one who lent me her car. That's correct. ("She lent me the car" would have been a better way to say it, though.)

He's the pilot that flew us to Phoenix. That's incorrect. (Yes, "He flew us to Phoenix" would have worked nicely.)

Aren’t you the one that wanted to ride with us? No. Sorry. (Who wanted to ride with us? You did.)

Cauliflower is a vegetable that I eat all the time. Yep. That is correct. At least the grammar is correct. I don't eat cauliflower often.

That's the kind of woman that turns me on. Thanks for playing, but no. She's still a who. She's the kind of woman who turns me on.

It's pretty simple. A person is a "who," whether you're giving a name or talking about a teacher, a linebacker, a taxi driver or a tax preparer. It's "that" when you're not talking about a person.

There is a gray area, though. I consider my dog Lady a "who." I thought of Secretariat as a "who." Same with Data, the android in Star Trek: The Next Generation. They proved in "Measure of a Man" that Data had rights, so he's a who. And, besides, I'm generous.

But, I'm also an editor, and I'm sorry ... a boat, whether it's the Lady Luck or the Queen Mary, is not a who.

Who's next?

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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