By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated, November 11, 2013)
There are a couple of simple rules to remember when making a choice between who and that:
- Always use who for people: People who go around whacking others with rubber chickens tend to be friendless.
- Always use that for objects: Plates that are thrown against walls tend to break.
For things that are related to people (such as organizations or teams) use that:
- Businesses that contribute to their communities tend to be more successful.
- It was Naomi’s team that won the unicycle polo championships.
For animals, it depends on whether or not the animal has a name. Use who for animals with names and that for unnamed animals:
- Curious George, who was the protagonist in a series of beloved children’s books, was a monkey.
- The monkey that stole the child’s candy bar was a new arrival at the zoo.
- Government of Canada, Language Portal of Canada. (2012). “That vs. Who with Animals.” NosLangues-OurLanguages.gc.ca.
- O’Conner, P. T. (1996). Woe Is I, the Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
- Strauss, J. (2013). “Who vs. That vs. Which.” GrammarBook.com.