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Which relative pronoun? That vs Who

As a fundamental part of speech, pronouns are used throughout writing. Most writers use pronouns correctly; however, relative pronouns cause problems for some writers in some instances. The sentences below illustrate a problematic use of relative pronouns.


Sentence: Surprisingly, a statistically significant difference did not exist between patients that reported risky behaviors and patients that did not.


Edited Sentence: Surprisingly, a statistically significant difference did not exist between patients who reported risky behaviors and patients who did not.


Explanation: “That” and “who” are two relative pronouns. Though the pronouns function the same, they refer to distinct things: “that” refers to non-human nouns while “who” refers to human nouns. In the initial sentence, “that” refers to “patients,” so the edited sentence replaces “that” with “who.”


When editing your writing, be sure to use the correct relative pronoun whenever you refer to people.


Until next week, Happy Writing!!!


Dr. V Writing

Coach-Editor-Speaker

Author of I'm Not a Writer...I am Just in Graduate School (order your copy at https://www.amazon.com/Not-Writer-Just-Graduate-School/dp/1533392919)

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