New SAT Grammar: “That” vs. “Which”
There are two pesky words, pronouns to be exact, that give lots of students difficulty and that happen to be ubiquitous in English (I just used one of them twice in this sentence). I am speaking about “that” and “which” and if you want to know which to use, listen up!
Take a look at the following sentences:
My dog, which barked all night, kept me up.
My dog that barked all night kept me up.
Both “that” and “which” should always refer to the noun that comes right before them. In this case, both refer to “dog”. The difference is when you use “that” you are specifying the one out of many. So the first sentence, in using “that”, implies that you have more than one dog. Whether you have two dogs or two hundred, if you are talking about one of those dogs, you must use “that”.
Out of my 37 dogs, the one that barks the most is a Siberian husky.
My dog that is accompanying us is the best Frisbee player out of the bunch.
When you use “which”, however, you are describing the one and only.
Canada, which receives snow six months of the year, is not for thin-haired dogs.
My one dog, which is named Muffins, barks at everything.
Most colleges require the SAT, which is administered multiple times a year.
The distinction between “which” and “that” might see a bit confusing. The good news is that the test rarely tests “that” and “which” in this sense. Rather, the test will treat the use of “that” or “which” as a punctuation test. Indeed, you might have already noticed that a comma always comes before “which” but not before “that”.
You might have also noticed that the verb describing the noun subject comes after the “which” phrase and is always preceded by a comma. (I’ve bolded this distinction in the sentence below).
The SAT, which is an exam almost every student dreads, requires lots of preparation.
Notice that when you use “that” there are no commas.
The exam that students most worry about is the SAT.
Keep this punctuation rule in mind and you’ll do well on any questions dealing with “that” and “which”.