Difference Between Who and That

Who vs That

Who and that are relative pronouns that are used to refer to people and animals and objects. Though there are also other relative pronouns, the most important ones are who and that. These two pronouns (relative) allow the speaker to link a phrase to another word in a sentence. People who are learning English language often use these pronouns erroneously and interchangeably. This article attempts to make clear their differences and usage.

As a general rule, you should use who to refer to people, and which to refer to things. That is one relative pronoun that can be confusing as it can be used to refer to both people and things. When the relative pronoun ‘that’ is used to refer to people, it is called informal English. It has to be remembered that that and which allow us to join clauses or phrases that otherwise remain separate.

According to dictionaries, who is used to refer to people while that is used to refer to objects and animals. But it is found that, in actual usage, that is flexible and can be used for people as well as objects and animals. Take a look at the following examples.

• I have a friend who can help in this matter.

• John has a master key that can open this lock

• This is the jacket that I was talking about

• He is the man who saved the drowning woman

Who vs That

• Both who and that along with which are relative pronouns.

• Use who to refer to persons and use that to refer to animals and objects.

• The use of that is flexible, and you can use it for people as well as objects.

• That and who allow joining of two phrases of a sentence that otherwise remain separate.