Who / That This

September 29, 2003

Who / That

This is my current pet peeve. I might be in the wrong on this one, but it still annoys me. Many undergraduates write in the structure "these are the sort of (collective-noun) that (verb)".

Now, when the collective noun is inanimate: tables, ideologies, pink and purple polka-dotted pentacles - then you should indeed use "that". And, when the collective noun is animate, most people do use who: "people, people who love people, ..."

What bugs me is when the collective noun refers to a group of people. I then want to use "who" afterwards, and the undergrads always use "that." They are not alone - I caught Benjamin Franklin doing it in his autobiography. It may even be correct practive by virtue of being common practice. But, these are the kinds of grammatical errors that bug me. People who make them are the kinds of writers who tend to use other phrases that also bug me.

Now I can go back to grading and housework, grading and housework.

Posted by Red Ted at September 29, 2003 03:33 AM | TrackBack