Monday, June 15, 2015

The Difference Between "Which" and "That" in Terms of Monkey Attacks

Which versus that is an old grammatical muddle that has stubbed the toes of many writers, who after guessing a few times, eventually look into it and encounter the phrase “restrictive clause” being applied to constructions using that. Grammar terms in general are stodgy and standoffish, and “restrictive clause” by its sound and very makeup feels like a nasty and unpleasant thing, a language concept wreathed in barbed wire, snarling marmots and other prohibitive agents. But it’s really not that bad.

It all boils down to necessity. The word that provides an unmistakable qualified description; it says what a thing is, and it implies what it is not, whereas which often prefaces a mere ornamental aside. Which heralds the imminent arrival of a lovely gem of nice-to-know attributes or clarifying information, a colorful and descriptive addition, but the clause it connects to is not critical to the sentence’s intended sense.

With the sentence, “There’s the monkey that bit me,” you can’t remove the word that and its dependent clause without changing the meaning of the sentence. All you’d have is, “There’s the monkey.” Whereas if you wrote, “The monkey, which was a rhesus macaque, bit me.” You could easily remove “which was a rhesus macaque” and not change the main thrust of the sentence.

Most people getting bitten by a monkey are going to want to know the genus soon enough, but the main thing would be to get away from the biting monkey. Especially in case it is a rhesus macaque, as they carry the sometimes deadly Herpes B virus. And remember, never try to fight the monkey. Due to the massive amount of lactic acid in his bloodstream, the monkey is many times stronger than most humans. He is faster than you, has awesome teeth and can jump like crazy. Just get the hell out of there.

One angry-ass monkey.