Here'are two sentences:

  1. It's not beer WHICH destroys people, it's beer WHICH does it to them.
  2. It's not beer THAT destroys people, it's beer THAT does it to them.

Pretty weird sentences but they are qoutes from a Russian movie translated into English :)

Which sentence sound more natural? To me both are okay as both, 'that' and 'which', may introduce a restrictive relative clause.

Here's what Oxford says: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/that-or-which

Thank you for your answers!

  • Is a specific beer mentioned before this sentence? As it stands, there is not enough to go on here. Apr 30, 2014 at 7:29
  • No, there isn't. It's just about beer in general and, according to the person who pronounces the phrase, beer doesn't destroy people at all, but it may be even useful. Hopefully, it has become a bit more clear. Sorry for that.
    – user73643
    Apr 30, 2014 at 7:36
  • 1
    In that case, these are it-clefts requiring 'that'. Apr 30, 2014 at 7:51
  • A more plausible English translation might be: 2' "It's not beer that destroys the man; beer actually makes the man." Apr 30, 2014 at 7:56
  • 1
    And I'll just add that 'which' is possible after an it-cleft, but there needs to be a particularisation: It was John’s book {which/that} got me interested in fungi'. Choosing 'which' here selects the meaning 'John’s book was the one {which/that} got me interested in fungi'. Apr 30, 2014 at 8:16

1 Answer 1


As your link said, you can use both since you are not introducing beer in your sentence.

But for something like:

It's not beard which kills them, it's beer; which I don't like.

In this sentence, I am introducing a fact that I don't like beer.. so I may not use that..

ps: the sentence is weird, but it serves its purpose.


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