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Gladys G

WHO/THAT - which is correct?

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"She's getting back at a group of friends WHO/THAT played a trick."

 

I think that if a noun indicates a person or group of persons, you always use "who". But then, a group, being plural, is not a "who". It's a bunch of "whos". So can someone please clear this up. It's driving me nuts!

 

Gladys

 

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Hi Gladys,

 

The good news is that I don't think you can go wrong with this one! :D

 

According to the tenth edition of The Gregg Reference Manual (p. 291), who and that are used when referring to persons. Who is used when the individual person or the individuality of a group is meant, and that is used when a class or type is meant.

 

I often like to see how the leading news organizations handle these types of situations. After searching Google News, I found that The New York Times and other newspapers used both "group who" and "group that."

 

I might lean toward using who in your example sentence since it was the individual members of the group who were responsible for playing the trick. In many cases, I think it's just a matter of preference.

 

I hope this helps!

 

Angela

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I use the human measure. Sometimes, I get carried away with my pets and they gain humanization and become WHOs while the table is THAT.

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Thank you, Angela,

 

I really appreciate your knowledge of grammar so I was hoping you would respond.

 

I love answers that include "matter of preference"".

 

I have pets, too. Humanization is a given so mine are always WHOs!

 

Gladys

 

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I would actually disagree with using 'who' in this case.

 

The confusion comes with using the word 'friends' in the sentence. If the word 'friends' is omitted, the sentence would use the word 'that' (the group that played a trick). Usually when I am trying to decide which is the correct word to use in any context, I simplify the sentence to simple subject/simple predicate.

 

I would use the word 'who' only in the absence of the word 'group' (the friends who played a trick) - but when using both, the word 'group' becomes the subject.

 

When I am editing, if something sounds funny, especially when the correct words are in place, I actually rewrite the sentence so that the 'problem' goes away! :)

 

Just my two cents!

Tracey

 

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I'm actually with Tracey on this one!

 

The group itself is what I see the sentence referring to so I would use 'that' in this context. If, like Tracey said, the word 'group' was not there it would become 'who' but I think in this instance I would use 'that'. It's like saying a 'group of employees who got fired' - just doesn't do it for me personally!

 

LJ

(who is in his element discussing word usage)

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Tracey and Levi: My first instinct was to use that in the example sentence too. It certainly sounds more natural, doesn't it?

 

Gregg has another section that discusses using who, which, and that when referring to organizations. Here's a short excerpt from p. 293:

 

Which, that, and who may be used to refer to organizations. When you are referring to the organization as a single entity (in order words, as it), then use which or that as indicated in 1062b. However, when you are thinking of the organization in terms of the individuals who make up the organization (in other words, when you think of the organization as they), you may use who or that as indicated in 1062a.

 

Examples:

 

Whenever we run short of computer supplies, the Brown & Weiner Company is the one that gives us the best service and the best prices.

 

We really like doing business with the people at the Brown & Weiner Company. They are a customer-oriented group who give us the best service and the best prices. (That may also be used in this sentence in place of who.)

 

Dictionary.com also has a couple of entries that shed some light on this topic:

 

Usage note for group:

Group as a collective noun can be followed by a singular or plural verb. It takes a singular verb when the persons or things that make up the group are considered collectively: The dance group is ready for rehearsal. Group takes a plural verb when the persons or things that constitute it are considered individually: The group were divided in their sympathies. See Usage Note at collective noun.

 

Usage note for collective noun:

When a COLLECTIVE NOUN naming a group of persons is treated as singular, it is referred to by the relative pronoun that or which: His crew is one that (or which) works hard. When such a noun is treated as plural, the pronoun is who: His crew are specialists who volunteered for the project. In formal speech and writing, COLLECTIVE NOUNS are usually not treated as both singular and plural in the same sentence: The enemy is fortifying its (not their) position. The enemy are bringing up their heavy artillery.

 

It doesn't happen often enough when it comes to grammar and usage, but it's so nice when there's not just one right answer! :)

 

Angela

 

P.S. Judy and Gladys: You'll be happy to know that Gregg includes a note on p. 292 regarding the use of who when referring to animals!

 

Note: Who is now used when an animal is identified by gender or a pet is identified by name.

 

Example: It was a chocolate Lab named Luke who located your missing child.

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It doesn't happen often enough when it comes to grammar and usage, but it's so nice when there's not just one right answer! :)

 

Angela

 

Hey Angela,

That's funny! I'm actually a one-answer-is-right type of gal.

I like it when there's only one way. It makes it easier to win an argument (just ask my husband!)! :lol:

Thanks for sharing the tips. I am actually grateful every day that the English language is so complicated for some people - it keeps us working! tee hee

Tracey

 

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I'm actually with Tracey on this one!

 

 

And just for fun, Levi, since you are happy to discuss word usage ... I'm wondering why you went with ACTUALLY in your post.

 

:whistlin:

 

Tracey

 

 

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I'm actually with Tracey on this one!

 

 

And just for fun, Levi, since you are happy to discuss word usage ... I'm wondering why you went with ACTUALLY in your post.

 

:whistlin:

 

Tracey

 

It's funny you should ask. I put it in, then took it out, then put it back in. I think it was a combination of the lack of sleep I've been having lately and the fact that you were out there all on your own; let's just say I was being defensive on your behalf! :P

 

LJ

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It's funny you should ask. I put it in, then took it out, then put it back in. I think it was a combination of the lack of sleep I've been having lately and the fact that you were out there all on your own; let's just say I was being defensive on your behalf! :P

 

LJ

 

 

Wow I was a damsel in distress and didn't even know it! :lol: Thanks for the support!

 

I love discussing the rules of grammar. I find that not enough people take the time to really work at good sentence structure and writing flow anymore - particularly with the speed of email!

 

One of the best pieces of advice that I have seen in the FoVA notes is to fill in the 'to' field in an email last, so that you cannot inadvertently send an unfinished (read: unproofread) email to someone. Great advice!

 

Tracey

 

 

 

 

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