Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yet More Confusing Pairs


Use which when you want to add parenthetical information.

The collie, which we sold, was Jack's dog. The collie was Jack's dog, and by the way, we sold him.

The computer, which was very old, finally crashed for good. The computer died, and oh, yes, no wonder because it was very old.

The house, which has red shutters, is at the end of the cul-de-sac. I'm telling you where the house is, and adding, as a bonus, that you can recognize it by its red shutters.

Notice that the "which" phrase always has commas before and after it, or only before it if it comes at the end of a sentence: I drank cognac that night, which was my favorite drink.

Use that to specify something particular.

The collie that we sold was Jack's dog. This implies there were other collies we didn't sell, but the one we did sell was a particular one, namely, Jack's.

The computer that was very old finally crashed. Not just "the computer," but specifically the one that was very old is the one that died.

The house that has red shutters is at the end of the cul-de-sac. I'm telling you where the house with red shutters is, specifying which house is at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Notice, no commas around the "that" phrase.


Once again, to be able to tell which is proper to use, we have to be able to distinguish between the subject of a sentence and the object. The subject is the person or thing acting, doing, the one the sentence is about. The object of a sentence is the person or thing acted upon, to whom or to which the action was done. In the sentence, "The flame burned her fingers," the subject is "The flame" and the object is "her fingers". The flame is what acted, what burned, and her fingers are what it acted upon, what it burned.

If we understand subject and object, we can easily tell when to use "you and I" versus "you and me."

You and I should be used as the subject of a sentence. Wherever you could say "We", you can say, "you and I":

You and I should attend that meeting together.
You and I both know better.
You and I agree to disagree.

You and me should be used as the direct or indirect object of a sentence. Wherever you could say "us", you can say, "you and me":

They invited Jack and Jill and you and me.

We are all going, including the Smiths, the Joneses, the Browns, and you and me.
(Including me, just as you'd say "including him", not "including he".)

Christ died for you and me.

BRING or TAKE? (Thanks to Monica)

Confusion about this arises particularly for people who speak Greek or some other language in which the two words are not differentiated. In Greek, both are "fero."

In English, it's a bit more complicated, but basically, "take" emphasizes a point of departure when something is transferred, while "bring" emphasizes its destination.

Some examples are fairly straightforward:

Here are some flowers for you to take to your mother.(Meaning, take from here or from me)

Take it out of here! I don't care what you do with it, so long you get it out of here.

Greg, please bring that note up to my desk. The note's destination is the important thing. Teacher wants to see it.

Did you bring your receipt with you, ma'am? Whether it's here for the cashier to see is her concern, not where you took it from (your shopping bag).

Other examples are less straightforward.

He took the note to his mother connotes he departed with the note.
He brought the note to his mother connotes he arrived with the note.
He took the Holy Fire from Jerusalem and brought it by plane to us.

Well, I hope these have been as fun and interesting for you as for me!