Saturday, April 30, 2011

Who versus That

No, this is not the name of a new case I want my Law and Lawyers class to learn. But it is an item that's been on my mind lately as I've been grading papers. It seems that students today have never been taught the word who. When I hear or read something like

He was the student that talked all through the class,

I just shudder. "The student that"?  It sounds so harsh.

Doesn't it sound much nicer to say,

He was the student who talked all through the class?

In formal and in spoken English, who has always been the word used when referring to people; that has been used when referring to all other things--animals, inanimate objects, etc.

I always correct my students on this but I feel it's a losing battle. But, really, people, do we want to become,

the people that lost control of our language?

Or would we rather be,

the people who proudly used proper, respectful English?

And one more thought: who is three letters; that is four letters--more to enter into a text message.....