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Benedetto Youssef
10-29-2017, 01:28 AM
Having trouble with which or that, even while understanding the difference between restricted and non restrictive clauses. Look at my following example:

Itwas tucked between Ricky's Hardware and a used car lot which hadclosed down so long ago even Mrs. Rumpsford would be hard pressed toremember the days that cars had inhabited its barren gravel lot.

or should it be:

It was tucked between Ricky's Hardware and a used car lot that had closed down so long ago even Mrs. Rumsford would be hard pressed to remember the days that cars had inhabited its barren gravel lot.

Thank you for your help!

Sleeping Cat Books
10-29-2017, 11:33 AM
It should be "that" in your example, unless you want to include a comma before "which" (but I'd go with "that" instead).

Maryn
10-29-2017, 07:14 PM
I'm with Sleeping Cat on this. (It's so warm and cozy!) You use a comma and which when what follows is not necessary for comprehension. Since the words following your which/that dilemma are necessary to identify the lot, you want that and no comma.

Maryn, almost purring herself

Dawnstorm
11-01-2017, 05:42 AM
Since the words following your which/that dilemma are necessary to identify the lot, you want that and no comma.

I don't think they're necessary, though. In fact, I feel the relative clause is just there for flavour. What type of parking lot we're talking about is irrelevant to location. It's unlikely there's more than one canditate, and if we'd decide between two, I'd expect a definite article.

In short, I'd go with ", which", since I think it's non-restrictive.

Fallen
11-01-2017, 12:07 PM
I agree with Dawn's flavouring, which only feels loosely tied back to 'a used car lot'.

It was tucked between Ricky's Hardware and a used car lot, which had closed down so long ago even Mrs. Rumpsford would be hard pressed to remember the days that cars had inhabited its barren gravel lot.

Bufty
11-01-2017, 02:54 PM
Yep. 'That' identifies and ', which' merely adds information.

Look in the small shed and bring me the bucket that has earth in it. (There's more than one bucket, but I want the one with earth in it.)

Look in the small shed and bring me the bucket, which has earth in it. (Only one bucket there, and it happens to have earth in it.)

BethS
11-01-2017, 03:04 PM
Yep. 'That' identifies and ', which' merely adds information.

Look in the small shed and bring me the bucket that has earth in it. (There's more than one bucket, but I want the one with earth in it.)

Look in the small shed and bring me the bucket, which has earth in it. (Only one bucket there, and it happens to have earth in it.)

Yes, this. ^^^

Maryn
11-01-2017, 04:49 PM
Bufty for the win! Allow me to shake you hand, sir.

Benedetto Youssef
11-01-2017, 07:03 PM
Thanks for the help everyone. I guess my next question is, since we seem to be mixed in our opinions here, whether or not either of these are inherently incorrect. I understand that by using that it can be implied that there are other empty used car lots, but I just think it sounds better in the sentence. HELP!? :)

Bufty
11-01-2017, 09:38 PM
Thanks for the help everyone. I guess my next question is, since we seem to be mixed in our opinions here, whether or not either of these are inherently incorrect. I understand that by using that it can be implied that there are other empty used car lots, but I just think it sounds better in the sentence. HELP!? :)

It may sound better, and folk often do get which and that mixed up, but I feel ',which' is more accurate in your case because the following information is simply extra gratuitous information about the lot but really has nothing to do with identifying the particular lot concerned.

The main identification concern is the location of 'It'- whatever 'it' is, and that is clearly given as being between Ricky's and a used car Lot. :snoopy:

Roxxsmom
11-01-2017, 10:49 PM
"That" is correct if the specific identity of that specific used car lot (as distinct from others in the area, perhaps) is central to the sentence, because "that had closed down" is a restrictive clause. If that clause were removed the meaning of the sentence would change. It would become just "a used car lot." You don't use commas there to set the clause with the "that" off, which is also correct.

Note how I used which in the above sentence. The sentence would be complete without the "which is correct." The "which is correct" adds a bit of extra information but doesn't change the core meaning.

If you wrote it "It was tucked between Ricky's Hardware and a used car lot, which had closed down so long ago even Mrs. Rumpsford would be hard pressed to remember the days that cars had inhabited its barren gravel lot."

It would also be grammatically correct, but the meaning shifts. In this case, the information that the used car lot has closed down so long ago is secondary and relatively unimportant to the core meaning. The clause becomes nonrestrictive.

So it depends on which emphasis you are shooting for. Is the fact that this particular used car lot is closed essential information, or is it an afterthought? I know it can be a subtle distinction, but the punctuation shifts with the meaning and word use.

And I know this isn't asked for, but I had to read the last part of the sentence "even Mrs. Rumpsford would be hard pressed toremember the days that cars had inhabited its barren gravel lot" a couple of times to get the meaning.

I think that second "that" could be replaced by a "when" for better clarity. It would avoid the problem with a repeated word too. I know it's not fair to nit pick sentences tossed out for quick and dirty questions, but that jumped out at me. Word choice does matter.

Bufty
11-01-2017, 11:46 PM
The original posted sentence itself is not really the best for illustrating the distinction between 'that' and ', which'.

I think the core meaning of the sentence here is to show where the opening 'It' is located - the lot having closed down or not is not changing the location of 'it'.

Dawnstorm
11-02-2017, 02:21 AM
Thanks for the help everyone. I guess my next question is, since we seem to be mixed in our opinions here, whether or not either of these are inherently incorrect. I understand that by using that it can be implied that there are other empty used car lots, but I just think it sounds better in the sentence. HELP!? :)

Neither is inherently incorrect. I said above that I prefer ",_which", but I might change my mind in context. You never know.

Grammar (and punctuation rules) can only tell you how things should look once you made your decision. Grammar can't make your decisions for you. An example how context can change whether I'd expect a restrictive or non-restrictive clause: If you continue to talk about "it" (whatever it is), then I'd probably prefer ",_which". If you continue to go into the parking lot's history for a while, I'd probably prefer "_that". Notice the "probably" in these sentences? That's because there are plenty of other potential considerations.

Your intuition, here, matters - there's usually a reason behind the choices you make. People learn language to speak and write, and that's why most of the decisions they make are automatic. Language would be quite cumbersome if we'd have to reflect every single semantic possibility while speaking. Don't get confused by stuff like "there can be two parking lots". These are just there to help you become conscious of what you're doing unconsciously. They're there to flag stuff, to understand abstract concepts in theory which you have little problem applying. Narrative flow is a good enough reason, IMO, to go for restrictive relative clauses.

Fallen
11-03-2017, 05:03 AM
Thanks for the help everyone. I guess my next question is, since we seem to be mixed in our opinions here, whether or not either of these are inherently incorrect. I understand that by using that it can be implied that there are other empty used car lots, but I just think it sounds better in the sentence. HELP!? :)

Maybe a switch to UK English can help here. We sometimes use that and which interchangeably with restrictive clauses:


She held out the hand that was hurt.
She held out the hand which was hurt.

The latter could be seen as inherently incorrect to most US users, but it's how some use it here.
(https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/usage/that-or-which)
Writing is about expression and flavour: how you string something together, despite what rule you pick up along the way. You say it sounds better as "that" but can't describe why. What if it's down to a simple: I've used 'lot' in that sentence -- it's got that lovely hard 't' on the end; 'that' then follows suit, giving that lovely hard bite to 't' on the end too. Using 'which' will change the pace of the sentence, breaking the flow, and I don't want to do that. I'd like 'that' to stay and I'll fight my editor for it: it's restrictive in this instance because it's... gonna spoil the monkey nuts out of the rhythm I want to create otherwise.

When you've reasoned it to the best of your ability, trust your instinct. Trust your ear.