It is my understanding that you should use the relative pronoun "who" when addressing people. So what would be correct for a group of people?

  1. "Jessica is the head of several teams which work on ..." or
  2. "Jessica is the head of several teams who work on ..."
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    Does this answer your question? 'Who' or 'which' in reference to companies (see Barrie England's answer; for 'companies', both are acceptable, but Google ngrams show the preferred styles (a) are changing and (b) are different on the two sides of the Atlantic. Google ngrams here? // Consider also 'several teams that' (UK, mainly). – Edwin Ashworth Feb 25 at 15:44
  • Not quite sure whether a company is the same as a team. While both may refer to multiple humans, a company has much more of an entity of it‘s own than a team (at least for me). A company has specific structures, rules etc., a team is mostly about the people. – Mirko Friedenhagen Feb 26 at 17:11
  • But don't the Google 3-grams address your particular case? GNgrams is seen as a standard resource on ELU, and might be expected to have been used (carefully) in a question. Barrie's answer shows how to examine preferences in companies/firms/teams/churches/families/nations/clubs ... who/which/that. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 26 at 17:35
  • So the answer would be: “Just use Google Ngrams or something similar“. That is what I do most of the times, however as a lot of texts are nowadays written by non-native speakers, I was unsure. But okay, just close this one as a dupe if you feel this is how one should answer such questions. Nonetheless thanks to everyone who took the time to look into this. – Mirko Friedenhagen Feb 26 at 19:52

It should be noted that simply looking at the frequency of the pronoun doesn't tell you a lot. One also needs to consider the context. In particular, "who" is more likely to "fit" when the reference is to the individual team members, rather than the team as a whole.

Also, many of the hits for "which" in "corpus" scans in another answer are in sentences such as "The last 11 losers of Super Bowls are 11 different teams which indicates it's much easier to get here than to actually win." "Which" is being used in an entirely different sense.

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  • I like this answer because it: a) still accepts the approach of using ngrams to find numerical comparisons of usages and b) warns against relying solely on numbers at the same time, thanks. – Mirko Friedenhagen Feb 27 at 19:46

Teams who is more common in the last few decades, but either is acceptable. To answer this, I'll use an American corpus, a British corpus, and a web-based corpus.

Corpus of Contemporary American English (1990-2019):

  • teams who: 201 results
  • teams which: 19 results

British National Corpus (1980s-1993):

  • teams who: 63 results
  • teams which: 28 results

News on the Web (2010s):

  • teams who: 15,242 results
  • teams which: 3,430 results

In all contexts, teams who shows up more often than teams which.

More generally, teams is an example of a collective noun which can refer to either the entity as a whole or to the individual people involved. Generally, traditionalists teach that which should be used for entities but who should be used for people. Meanwhile, in the context of collective nouns, advice-givers on usage treat who and which as a matter of emphasis - use who when emphasizing the people on teams, and which when emphasizing the teams as units (see e.g. Tanya Trusler at ESL Library or English Plus Language Blog).

In other words, both can be correct, who is more common, and if you can't decide, think about whether you would rather emphasize the people or the unit.

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  • " 'Who' is the more common" does not take into consideration the fact that 'that' seems to be far more common than either, and that OP could be choosing between second and third best here. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 26 at 17:30

Neither who nor which are as common as that, which is what should be used. Note that that that solves one problem and avoids others. It works for singular and plural, masculine, feminine, and neuter, and works for any relative clause with a subject relative pronoun.

  • the man that came to dinner
  • the book that's on the table
  • the teams that won the first round

It also works for non-subject relative pronouns, but that's irrelevant here. So, your understanding about which relative pronouns to use seems incomplete. Who and which may indeed be used -- either one, in the case of teams -- but that is preferable because it's colloquial English.

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