"That" as a relative pronoun for people

Do you use "that" as a relative pronoun for people as in e.g. "The people that wrote these books"?

  • Yes

    Votes: 3 42.9%
  • No

    Votes: 4 57.1%
  • Sometimes, but I shouldn't

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    7

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I know opinions on the question differ. Many people use "that" in this way, including me sometimes, but there are those who maintain it's wrong and that "that" should be used only of things. I'm just curious to see what the tendency is among members of this forum.
 

Issacus Divus

ᛋᚢᚾᚢ ᚱᛖᛟᚱᛞᚲᚤᚾᛁᚾᚷᚨᛋ
I'm the kind of person that would use that in that way.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I know opinions on the question differ. Many people use "that" in this way, including me sometimes, but there are those who maintain it's wrong and that "that" should be used only of things.

Are there? You meet a lot of weird people on your poetry forum :p
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Are there? You meet a lot of weird people on your poetry forum :p
The idea for this thread indeed came to me after a discussion I had on AllPoetry (how did you know?) but people elsewhere hold that belief about "that" too; it's something I've heard of before.

The issue is even mentioned in this dictionary:
It is sometimes argued that, in relative clauses, that should be used for non-human references, while who should be used for human references: a house that overlooks the park but the woman who lives next door. In practice, while it is true to say that who is restricted to human references, the function of that is flexible. It has been used for human and non-human references since at least the 11th century, and is invaluable where both a person and a thing is being referred to, as in a person or thing that is believed to bring bad luck.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
This is one of the arguments that people have about English that doesn't make a lot of sense to me ... it's also the first time I've ever heard of it :p
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
It is fairly standard, though. Despite what I've said above, I'd tend to observe the rule.

The rule not to use 'that' with people?

I have to confess that this is totally new to me. In school, I learnt that 'that' can replace both 'who' and 'which' in defining relative clauses (not in non-defining ones, though) and I had a number of native-speakers from different English-speaking countries in my language classes later, but nobody ever insisted that you couldn't replace 'who' with 'that' in defining relative clauses ... and they talked about these kinds of clauses a lot since the question as to whether you put a comma there or not seemed to be of existential importance to all of them ...
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
The rule not to use 'that' with people?

I have to confess that this is totally new to me. In school, I learnt that 'that' can replace both 'who' and 'which' in defining relative clauses (not in non-defining ones, though) and I had a number of native-speakers from different English-speaking countries in my language classes later, but nobody ever insisted that you couldn't replace 'who' with 'that' in defining relative clauses ... and they talked about these kinds of clauses a lot since the question as to whether you put a comma there or not seemed to be of existential importance to all of them ...
Yes. I'm rather surprised that this is new to you, given that in my experience Germans are taught that tendencies in English are actual rules. (I may have mentioned the student in Leipzig who insisted that in English adverbial expressions of place preceded those of time, and appeared not to believe me when I told him this wasn't always the case.)
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
Yes. I'm rather surprised that this is new to you, given that in my experience Germans are taught that tendencies in English are actual rules.
That's true, but it depends on which rules the textbook prescribes. None I've ever come across told you not to replace 'who(m)' with 'that' (nor did any book even mention that there was a tendency to do so) ...

(I may have mentioned the student in Leipzig who insisted that in English adverbial expressions of place preceded those of time, and appeared not to believe me when I told him this wasn't always the case.)

I remember something to that extent from school, but quickly forgot about it later.
 
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