I'm a bit confused with the correct answer in this phrase:

In Florida, you can explore the Everglades or the beaches, _______ are relaxing places.

Is it "which are relaxing places" or "that are relaxing places"? Thanks for the help!

  • 5
    This is a non-restrictive relative clause, so only which is allowed. Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 3:19
  • By the way, the above comment could be construed as a more formal way of expressing the below answer, using proper linguistic terms. Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 6:09
  • 1
    @BrianHitchcock No way :-) The answer below is very wrong indeed! It says that we should use that when there isn't a comma! John Lawler's comment says no such thing! Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 16:12
  • but leaving out the comma and using "that" makes it a restrictive clause. This does not contradict what Lawler said, but it is rather less elegant. Granted, the choice should not be determined by whether you "want a comma", but rather by what you mean; then the comma use is determined by whether the clause is restrictive or non-restrictive. That's why I upvoted Lawler's comment, but not CactusHouse's answer. Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 10:18

1 Answer 1


When you say 'which,' you're generally saying something without which the sentence would be complete (counter example is this sentence).

In the case you describe, you should say 'which,' because saying beaches are relaxing is an aside following a comma. In cases like those, the rules are clearer. If you want a comma, say 'which;' if you don't want a comma, say 'that.' But choose to say 'which' when what follows is more of a detail than an essential part of the sentence.

  • Are you saying that we shouldn't use which for defining relative clauses? Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 16:13
  • @Araucaria Most likely. In America, that is a common prescriptive rule, though they usually make an exception for 'that which', as in 'That which goes up must come down.'
    – Angelos
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 18:04
  • @Nothingatall Yes, indeed. There's a few other times when we have to use which and not that too :) Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 21:27

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.