previous next


PRONOUNS, RELATIVE AND INTERROGATIVE. Who, that, and which, difference between

That, which, who, difference between. Whatever rule may be laid down for the Elizabethan use of the three relative forms will be found to have many exceptions. Originally that was the only relative; and if Wickliffe's version of the New Testament be compared with the versions of the sixteenth century and with that of 1611, that will be found in the former replaced by which and who in the latter, who being especially common in the latest, our Authorized Version. Even in Shakespeare's time, however, there is great diversity of usage. Fletcher, in the Faithful Shepherdess (with the exception of a few lines containing the plot, and probably written by Beaumont), scarcely uses any relative but the smooth that throughout the play (in the first act which is only used once); and during the latter half of the seventeenth century, when the language threw off much of its old roughness and vigour, the fashion of Wickliffe was revived. That came into favour not because, as in Wickliffe's time, it was the old-established relative, but because it was the smoothest form: the convenience of three relative forms, and the distinctions between their different shades of meaning, were ignored, and that was re-established in its ancient supremacy. Addison, in his "Humble Petition of Who and Which," allows the petitioners to say: "We are descended of ancient families, and kept up our dignity and honour many years, till the jack-sprat That supplanted us." But the supplanting was a restoration of an incapable but legitimate monarch, rather than a usurpation. Since the time of Addison a reaction has taken place; the convenience of the three distinct forms has been recognized, and we have returned somewhat to the Elizabethan usage.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: