That, Which or Who?!

My sister, who I love a lot, has a big sweater that has many holes, which get bigger every time she wears it.

Have you ever been confused by when you use that, which or who to describe the subject of your sentence? So were the students in the English class I am currently teaching! However, with the handy chart below and some easy steps, it’s easy to figure out which word to use in your descriptive clause.

Subject Punctuation   Type of Information
Place/Thing  None That Defining

Which Non-defining
Person None Who Defining



STEP 1: Find the Subject

The sentence above has two different subjects that are described by clauses. The first subject of the sentence is “my sister,” then the second is “a big sweater.”

STEP 2: Determine the Type of Noun

Is the subject of your sentence a person or a place/thing? The first subject, “my sister” is a person noun while the second noun, “a big sweater” is a thing.

STEP 3: Determine the Type of Information

Defining information is anything that is necessary to provide so that your reader can understand what the subject is. Meanwhile, non-defining information simply gives extra detail and could be taken out of the sentence easily. For example, the information that the sweater has many holes is necessary to identify this specific sweater. On the other hand, the fact that the holes get bigger each time your sister wears the sweater does not define the sweater and is extra detail.

STEP 4: Choose Your Word Using the Chart. Click here to download it from our Resources page.

STEP 5: Add Punctuation.

While you might get by when speaking using any of these words, it’s best to be correct in writing 🙂 This is even more important when adding in the correct punctuation. Non-defining clauses should be surrounded by commas “,” the punctuation marks that indicate a pause in the sentence. These marks also indicate that the clause could be excluded from the sentence and still make sense. For example, in the sentence above, you could take out “who I love a lot,” and the sentence would still be grammatically correct!

In this type of sentence, which will always come after a comma, but who either has a comma before or does not depending on whether the information is defining or non-defining. 

Have questions? Contact us, we’d love to hear from you!


New Year, New Resolutions!



A new year means the chance to start fresh! It’s the perfect excuse to make goals and envision where you want to be a year from now. In English we call these goals for the new year your NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 🙂

So what is a resolution? It is something you resolve to do.

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Maybe one of your resolutions for 2015 is to improve your English! In this case, try writing your New Year’s resolutions in English. My New Year’s resolutions always involve a lot of brainstorming about the different aspects of my life: career/school, health, friends, family, love, money etc. I usually try to think of 2-3 things in each category I want to resolve to do better in the new year. For example, some of my resolutions from last year that I accomplished were to:

  • Run a half marathon.
  • Keep in touch with friends across distances.
  • Travel as much as possible!

Some resolutions I didn’t quite accomplish were to:

  • Take the GRE.
  • Become fluent in 2 languages other than English.
  • Make time to read books for fun.

Well, there’s always 2015…


Do you notice the grammatical pattern for writing your resolutions in English? New Year’s resolutions are usually in a list, but imagine that there’s a start of the sentence that says “In 2015, I resolve to…”

  • VERB IN INFINITIVE (the “to” is already in the imaginary start of your sentence) + Direct object… 


Try writing out your own list using this model. Once you’re nice and proud of your resolutions for the year, share them with your friends. The more people you tell, the more you will be reminded to stick to and accomplish your goals!

Here are some other useful and more commonly used phrases for talking about your New Year’s Resolutions from Espresso English:

  • I’m going to… (exercise everyday).
  • I’m not going to… (spend all my money on shopping for clothes)
  • I’m planning to… (eat vegetables)
  • I hope to… (see my family once a month)
  • I’d like to… (get good grades in all my courses)

Each resolution can be as detailed or as simple as you wish. However, don’t overwhelm yourself with too many complicated resolutions! Stick with a few strong resolutions that you can really focus on and accomplish over the year. Wishing you a great start to your 2015!

Happy Writing!