Commonly Confused Word Pairs: That/who

December 22, 2005: Issue 119

For people, use “who.” For animals and objects, use “that” or “which”:

incorrect: The guest rooms are a necessity for empty nesters that frequently keep their grandchildren overnight.
correct: The guest rooms are a necessity for empty nesters who frequently keep their grandchildren overnight.

incorrect: Three Great Danes who track in plenty of mud were the inspiration for the dark, mottled flooring.
correct: Three Great Danes that track in plenty of mud were the inspiration for the dark, mottled flooring.

The exception (and of course there is one) is animals that we name.

correct: The couple’s poodle, Fifi, who quickly claimed the window seat, is a fixture in this sunny room.

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