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I read a submission in a newsletter about grammar. Part of the article discussed the use of who and that. The reader is told to use who as a pronoun for references to people and that as a pronoun for references to inanimate objects. The author provided examples: “Phoebe is the person who lives next door to my daughter.” and “It’s the grocery store that is closest to my house.” In closing of this section the author provides the statement, “When did people become objects?”

Aren't who and that relative pronouns? Also, I don't believe the use of who or that are needed in the author’s examples. Composing in plain talk, I would compose the author's examples as: “Phoebe lives next door to my daughter.” and “It’s the grocery store closest to my house.”

Comments please...?

  • If you google the uses of who and that (along with other relative pronouns), you will find that most authorities allow that for both people and objects. Who was responsible for your newsletter about grammar? – Ronald Sole Feb 28 '17 at 19:29
  • My first though was: why not both? Isn't a "relative pronoun" a kind of pronoun, like a "green apple" is a kind of apple? I think it would be easier to answer your question if you explain why you think these are mutually exclusive categories. – herisson Feb 28 '17 at 19:52
  • The author of the submitted article is ignorant of the facts about English grammar and has substituted their own facts instead. Ignore them. Either who or that is grammatical as restrictive relative pronouns referring to humans. Strictly speaking, that is a complementizer instead of a pronoun (the same one that appears in I think that this is correct), but since it works exactly the same as who it's promoted to associate restrictive relative pronoun in those cases. – John Lawler Feb 28 '17 at 20:51
  • @sumelic Yes, but is "that" a relative pronoun? A very large number of grammarians don't think so. They think it is a subordinator which introduces relative clauses. It's the same "that" we find in subordinate content clauses. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 2 '17 at 8:40