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Hello everyone,
I have a burning question (i.e. the sonner I get the correct answer, the better). Speaking of people, what is gramatically correct: "the ones WHO matter" or "the ones THAT matter?" English is my second language, but something is telling me that it's WHO, and the explanation I have is that I should use WHO when speaking of people, and THAT when speaking of things.
Am I right?
Thanks a LOT!
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Comments  
You are right.

("sooner" not "sonner")
Anonymous and the explanation I have is that I should use WHO when speaking of people, and THAT when speaking of things.
Hi,
I'm a non-native speaker too, but I've never heard of such rule, not even intended as a prescriptive rule (and I've read several grammar books). I've always read that you can use "that/which" for things, and "that/who" for people, so "that" goes with everything.
Maybe I've never paid attention to that distinction, if there is one, so maybe there might be a difference in register or something (I personally use "that" and "who" interchangeably, but I might consider using only "who" in some writing where I wanted to sound formal). GG's answer got me thinking though, and I think I'll search the net a little to find out more about "who vs that". Emotion: smile
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Damn! I know about sooner, I just misspelled it. Emotion: smile

Geek, thank you very much!
There are many things in any language that even native speakers don't really know. I'm talking here about proper use of language, which is something that often sounds awfully "proper", or formal. The thing that reminded me of this rule is a book called A Grammar Book for You and I....oooops, Me! by Ed Good. Now I am not completely sure that I ever read this in Ed's book, but something is telling me that I'm right. Anyway, if you ever have a chance to read it, do it. It is a grammar book, but a very fun grammar book.

Again, thanks a lot!
Lordy, Kooyeen - you haven't been paying much attention to Philip! He and I share a VERY strong preference for using "who" for people whenever possible.

Sometimes it is okay to use "that" restrictively for people, especially when you don't know exactly who the person is: The man that I marry for my third marriage will be rich and on life support.

I don't know who this man is, so "that I marry" is simply saying which man I mean.

People do use "that" for other restrictive phrases when describing people, but I try very hard not to.
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Grammar GeekLordy, Kooyeen - you haven't been paying much attention to Philip! He and I share a VERY strong preference for using "who" for people whenever possible.
LOL, no I actually paid attention! I just wanted to say I don't remember reading much about that in grammar books or forums. But I already noticed your answers about this issue here in EF, so don't worry, I pay attention. Emotion: wink But since this is not the first time I've seen you mention this difference, I got curious, and searched the net this time. Well, I was surprised to see so many results for "who vs that"! Ok, here's what I found...

This is from bartleby.com:
The man that wanted to talk to you just called back. Some people say that you can only use who and not that to introduce a restrictive relative clause that identifies a person. But that has been used in this way for centuries. It is a quintessential English usage, going back to the Old English period, and has been used by our best writers. So it is entirely acceptable to write either the man that wanted to talk to you or the man who wanted to talk to you.

This is Merriam-Webster:
That, which, who: In current usage that refers to persons or things, which chiefly to things and rarely to subhuman entities, who chiefly to persons and sometimes to animals. The notion that that should not be used to refer to persons is without foundation; such use is entirely standard. Because that has no genitive form or construction, of which or whose must be substituted for it in contexts that call for the genitive.

And then there are several websites telling people that only "who" is correct, but of course I don't understand that rule (and I don't accept it), for the simple reason that it doesn't reflect the way modern English is currently used. Actually, I don't even know where such rule comes from, since it seems "that" has been used instead of "who" for centuries. Go figure. Emotion: smile
I disagree with nothing you posted! Note I said a strong preference! Emotion: smile

My error was in my first response - I should have said "Many writers -- including me -- will agree with you, although technicially you can use 'that' for people too."
AnonymousThere are many things in any language that even native speakers don't really know. I'm talking here about proper use of language, which is something that often sounds awfully "proper", or formal.
I hadn't read your post. Hmm, I doubt native speakers can't speak their own language. If they can't, who can? A language is by definition what a group of people actually use to communicate, not what they are supposed to use and that someone else expects them to use.So... sorry, but I don't think I am the kind of person who would enjoy that grammar book Emotion: wink

Grammar GeekI disagree with nothing you posted! Note I said a strong preference!
Ah, glad to hear that. I was afraid you would plan to kill me in some way, for example by sending me a poisoned PM or something, just because I wanted to used "that". Emotion: stick out tongue
Once again, I see you were thinking more of written English... of course that's the first thing that crosses your mind, you are a writer! Emotion: wink My situation is pretty different, because I think I tend to think of English in a more general way when I post, and I end up considering mainly informal English, sometimes even dialectal.
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