When referring to both natural and non-natural persons (i.e. organisations) at the same time, is it appropriate to use 'which' or 'who'?

For example:


  • '... request the person or body who has the responsibility for this task..' or
  • '... request the person or body which has the responsibility for this task..'


  • '...the person or body to whom the application was directed' or
  • '...the person or body to which the application was directed'

(There is a reason that 'person' precedes 'the body')

  • Similar to english.stackexchange.com/q/437169/14666
    – Kris
    Mar 19 '18 at 6:01
  • Neither would work well. That could be a possible alternative. (However, the question is not asking for alternatives, so this is not an answer.)
    – Kris
    Mar 19 '18 at 6:03
  • Normally I despise the very idea of re-wording anything to avoid the Question but here, it seems wholly justified. What would remain unclear if you used ”… the person or body with (the) responsibility…”, please? Mar 19 '18 at 21:24
  • 2
    As I noted under Barrie England's answer to the question that Edwin Ashworth suggests as a duplicate, "companies that" appears to be far more frequent than either "companies who" or "companies which" in U.S. English. See the Ngram chart for these three expressions for the corpus American English over the years 1880–2005.
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 20 '18 at 4:16
  • Why not simply the person or the body that... ? Aug 30 '18 at 19:36

Both forms are in regular use. In the example given either would be acceptable, and even referring to a body alone "who" is often used, but probably not in formal usage.

The vagueness over this issue can be illustrated as follows:

In English law there is not necessarily a clear-cut distinction between natural persons and bodies. Some bodies, such as certain professional partnerships, comprise a group of natural persons, and there are natural persons who in legal terms are corporations.

It used to be considered correct form to begin a letter to a company: "Gentlemen,..."

There is a related question as to whether a body should be referred to as "it" or "they". In some circumstances "it" will appear odd; in others "they". Sometimes the fact that what in legal terms is a person is over-ridden by the reality that it is composed of and directed by human beings.

  • 'The person which ...' is in common use? I'd reformulate, but '... request the person who or body which has the responsibility for this task ...' is correct if laborious. Aug 15 '21 at 14:27

...request the person or body which has the responsibility... ...the person or body to which the application was directed...

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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