Post by Peter T. Daniels Post by Paul Carmichael Post by Peter T. Daniels Post by Paul Carmichael
X, which has something in common with Y,...
X, that has something in common with Y,...
I think I only use "which" when asking "which one is yours", "I don't know which way to
go" (comparing?) etc. Not 100% sure though. I don't know why, but I find it an ugly word.
For the above, I would definitely use "that".
Did you miss the commas? It is a non-restrictive clause.
I know. And? Not generally used? Best avoided? Who says?
Several centuries at least of English usage (and not Fowlerian prescriptions)
say that "which" and not "that" is used in non-restrictive relative clauses.
As long as we understand "usage" to refer to a tendency rather than
an absolute; and "several centuries at least" to mean "possibly as few as
two". When this last came up a few months ago, I mentioned that these non-restrictive "that"s did not sound odd or archaic to me. Jespersen refers to "the old use of _that_ in decidedly non-restrictive clauses", and has no examples later than Fielding. They're tricky to search for, but I've found several 19th century examples, and even one from this century. Rather than
repeat the two I gave in April, here's another:
The waters of the Nile, that now rush impetuously at certain seasons
with overwhelming violence, while at other seasons they are exhausted,
might be so controlled that they should never be in excess...
- Baker, The Nile Tributaries of Abysinnia (1871)