Another grammar question

I took a quiz on the use of “who,” “which,” “that,” and “whom” on a website. I got one of the questions wrong. The question was:

  1. Choose the correct sentence.
    A) That is a problem who can’t be solved without a calculator.
    B) That is a problem which can’t be solved without a calculator.
    C) That is a problem that can’t be solved without a calculator.
    D) That is a problem whom can’t be solved without a calculator.

The answer on the website is A. That makes no sense to me.

Is the website wrong?

I think you read the answer wrong. I just did it, and it said the correct answer is “which.”


Nevermind. Thank you for your help.

This thread can be closed.

Not so fast . . . I just took the quiz, and apparently whoever wrote the test thinks that you can’t have two "that"s in a sentence, even when one is used in the correct restrictive sense. :confused:

(Why yes, I do prefer to retain the distinction between “which” [nonrestrictive, use commas] and “that” [restrictive, no commas]. And I disagree with the test author’s calling such usage flat-out wrong.)

Which ones do you disagree with?

I’m not Scarlett67, but I disagree with #2 and #3. I believe that “that” is correct in both cases.

I missed 3, or did they? Can anyone explain the reasoning?

Yes, I’d agree with that too.

Me, too. I also subscribe to the rule that “that” is restrictive and “which” is descriptive. “Which” has commas, “that” doesn’t.

IIRC this was a “that vs which” question. Personally, I can’t see any difference worth mentioning in the example they used. But still:

Have you ever thought about getting a grammar book? They’re not expensive.

There is a distinction, but it has nothing to do with “how many times you can use that in a sentence.”

I’m going to check this “quiz” out.

In the four sentences, there are two distinct words spelled as that. The first one is a demonstrative pronoun (a deictic). It’s like when you point at something that you consider to be either near or far. (“Not that one, this one.”) The second that is a relative pronoun.

Restrictive vs. non-restrictive refers to only the second that (For restrictive we don’t use the commas to indicate only one referent as opposed to another possible referent. Emphasis on possible.)

Don’t use that for non-restrictive relative clauses.

In both spoken and written English—except in only the most formal situations (academic writing, or giving a speech in front of the president)—we use that or who in restrictive clauses. In speech usually people communicate the “comma/s” in non-restrictive clauses by pausing.

I have two sisters. My older sister, [del]that[/del] who lives in Malibu, has a big snake.
I have two sisters. The older sister, [del]that[/del] who lives in Malibu, has a big snake.
(The other sister is younger, but it could be that she also lives in Malibu–non-restrictive.)

I have two sisters. The sister that / who lives in Malibu has a big snake.
(The other sister definitely doesn’t live in Malibu or have a big snake–restrictive.)

Whom is for object case and people only. EX: “That is a man whom I can’t understand.”

Which is another relative pronoun. You can use it like that, but also in a non-restrictive clause, and some people consider it more formal.

So the quiz is wrong so say that letter C is incorrect, unless it’s going by only the most formal standard–a standard that is rarely applied today. I suppose if it’s a test for proofreaders at an academic press, it might apply.

If you heard the following conversation, or read it in a play, would it seem ungrammatical to you? Not to me.

A: After you left the club, I got the girl’s phone number.

B: Really? But I thought she was married.

A: No, that’s the girl that lives in my building.
I’m talking about the girl that works at the Whiskey.

B: Oh. I see.

Nothing wrong with using “which” for restrictive relative clauses, nothing wrong with using “which” for restrictive relative clauses, trust your ears as a native speaker of English, nothing wrong with using “which” for restrictive relative clauses, William Strunk himself did it, and though E.B. White tried to hide that, he used them as well, as is only to be expected, given that both were native speakers of English, nothing wrong with using “which” for restrictive relative clauses…

(This wasn’t a response to guizot, who didn’t really say anything against this, but to the very concept that a native speaker of English would need to take a test to demonstrate their knowledge of the “hidden rules” governing “that”/“which” distinctions in the first place)

Sorry. That should be, “For restrictive we DON’T use commas to indicate one PARTICULAR referent as opposed to another.”

EX: The people who wore bathings suits went to beach. (I.e., the people who didn’t have bathing suits didn’t go the beach. They went somewhere else.)

Well, #2 and #3 are basically testing the same thing.

As pointed out by scarlett67, the people who made this test believe that if you have a predicate nominative construction, and if the subject is a pronoun, such as this, and not a proper noun, then you must use which in the relative clause:

This is a car which has many features.

On the other hand, they also seem to believe that if you “front load” a predicate nominative sentence with a relative clause, putting it in the “subject” position with a proper noun, then you must use that. In other words, they think that a subject “can’t” be a relative clause (because that “doesn’t belong in relative clause” in the sentence of a proper grammarian) so you have only two correct ways to express the idea. The above example, or something like this:

A car that has many features is good.

But just about everybody today is fine with switching the two words in most contexts and it will be accepted as grammatical and correct.

Yes, exactly. I won’t rehash guizot’s excellent explanation (I was too [del]lazy[/del] tired last night to get into it myself).

I agree that there’s no rule about the number of "that"s in a sentence, but that (heh) seemed to be the only difference in the problem questions, as others did make the correct restrictive/nonrestrictive distinction. (Just yesterday I was proofreading second pass pages of a novel in which the first proofer had queried a sentence that had FOUR "that"s in it. The editor revised to eliminate only one of them.)

Oh yeah, and I do think a grammar book would be a worthwhile investment for the OP. I use Hodges’ Harbrace College Handbook most of the time, but Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s The Transitive Vampire is much more entertaining.

Thread closed at OP’s request.

General Questions Moderator