Beyond PR

Aug 12, 2013

Grammar Hammer: That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

Nietzsche’s famous quote serves as the lead-in for this week’s topic – when to use that vs. which.

Both “that” and “which” are used with types of clauses. Determining the type of clause will help you know when to use “that” or “which.”

There are two types of clauses to look at here – restrictive and non-restrictive. A restrictive clause gives essential information about the preceding noun and will change the meaning of a sentence if it is removed. A non-restrictive clause gives non-essential information (also referred to as an appositive, or an interruption or side note in a sentence).

To keep this simple – use “that” when you are introducing a restrictive clause.

Example: “The coat that I wear to work every day has become completely threadbare.”

Use “which” with a non-restrictive clause.

Example: “The coat that I wear to work every day has become completely threadbare, which means I need to buy a new coat.”

Punctuation Note:  Which is usually preceded by a comma since it is introducing a non-restrictive clause.


“That” = necessary to the meaning of the sentence

“Which” = expendable – nice detail, but not critical to the meaning

Think you’ve got it down? Take the fun little online quiz I found!

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

3 Comments on Blog Post Title

Steve Friedman 19:38 EDT on Aug 12, 2013

The most practical guideline I’ve read on this is: “which” is always preceded by a comma, and “that” is never preceded by a comma.

­ Morgan 11:18 EST on Jan 13, 2015

So it should be, “That that does not kill us makes us stronger”?

­ Steve Friedman 12:51 EST on Jan 13, 2015

Or, perhaps: “All that does not kill us makes us stronger.”

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