Who vs. That; That vs. Which


Who, that and which are all relative pronouns which are used in a sentence or clause to specify which person or thing or which type of person or thing we are talking about.


Who vs. that


In a defining relative clause, the relative pronoun can be the subject or the object of the clause. When in a sentence, the relative pronoun is the subject of the clause, the verb follows the relative pronoun:

The old woman who lives next to us looked very queer, with witchy hair and soiled clothes.

The man who gave me a stern look will be staying with us in the vacations.

I have a friend who has played in county cricket.

There have been many complaints about the people littering on the sidewalk who/ that live in those flats.

Wilsons have a relative who/ that every so often visits them.

The thought of seeing her after so long was all that kept him awake all night.


Be careful!

Don’t put a comma between the noun and a defining relative clause. Relative clauses begin with a relative pronoun ‘who’, ‘which’ or ‘that’. However, we often drop the wh-word. Instead, a zero relative pronoun is used:

She was probably the most charming woman (that) I have ever worked with.

Martha, the woman (that) Bob married last year, has broken up with him.

We flew to Hong Kong by the airline (which/ that) Pamela had recommended to us.


When the relative pronoun is the object in a sentence, a noun (or pronoun) comes between the relative pronoun and the verb in relative clause. Here, we use a zero relative pronoun:

That’s the man (who/ that) I saw in the police van this morning.

She gifted the necktie to her husband (which/ that) she had brought back from Switzerland.


That vs. which


So, now we move on to the main distinction between that and which, where there’s a slight difference between UK and US English. In UK English, if a clause contains some necessary information about the noun that comes before it, it’s OK to use either that or which:

She took the train which runs between Kansas City and St. Louis.               

She took the train that runs between Kansas City and St. Louis.                  

Jack boarded the train that came first.


However, in US English, most Grammar guides recommend that for introducing a restrictive relative clause, use that rather than which:

She gave her all woollens to charity that she bought only two months ago.


We use that as subject after something and anything. Words such as little, much, all and none are used as nouns and superlatives. That or zero relative pronoun is used as subject after these:


That’s all (that) I wanted to explain her.                     

That’s all which I wanted to explain her.                    

Is there anything (that) you need to know about the man?   

Is there anything which you need to know about the man?  

That’s the most fascinating place (that) I had ever gone.                 

That’s the most fascinating place which I had ever gone.                

Learnt vs. Learned


Learnt = Much more common in British English than in American English

Learned = Used in both British English and American English


We learnt/learned of President’s death on BBC radio.
Jill learnt/learned the table of 11 by heart.

Though she was driven to distraction by the noisy niblings, she  learnt/learned the speech in a few hours.

She learnt/learned Spanish from her mother.

She hasn’t learnt/learned her lines for the play yet while Maria played the scene with great skill.

She learnt/learned modesty from her mother.

He hadn’t given a damn about my advice, so I guess he learnt/learned the hard way.


There are a number of other irregular verbs like burnt/burned, leaped/leapt, dreamt/dreamed, spilled/spilt, knelt /kneeled, spoilt/spoiled, spelt/spelled, etc., which follow the same pattern in their past tense and past participle structure.

Note: It is learned (not learnt), an adjective which is pronounced as two syllables (lərn|əd) rather than the one syllable verb (ləːnt or ləːnd) means ‘having or showing profound knowledge’.

He is a learned and respected jurist.
The judge couldn’t dismiss the report as it came in an extremely learned journal.

On your own vs. By yourself


On your own =  Without any help; unaccompanied by others; alone

By yourself    =  Through one’s own efforts; alone; nobody else

On your own and by yourself are two phrases that are seemingly different, but their meanings are the same and often both are used interchangeably with no loss of meaning. However, one may be preferred over another, according to context. Again, it all depends on the context:

I handled the situation on my own. (conveys a positive approach which one’s proud of)

I handled the situation by myself.    (shows a negative one since nobody was there to help one, so he had to do it by himself).


Both on my own and by myself may denote ‘without assistance from anybody else’. On my own implies ‘on my own initiative, without being prompted or ordered to do so,’ whereas by myself may suggest ‘when I was alone:’


On your own:

We are expecting our first baby earlier this month and I have to do things on my own.

These exercises are very simple; Jack can do these all on his own.

She has been in the city for quite some time and now is used to live on her own.

The matter has become so complicated. Can you handle it on your own?

He had his right arm in plaster so, couldn’t tie his shoelaces on his own.

It is not safe to go and come back late at night in this city on your own.

He thought of the idea of participating in the quiz contest on his own.


By yourself:

With all these picturesque rocky shores, I really enjoy spending a quiet evening here by myself. (alone)

You can’t lift the box onto the table all by yourself! Can I help you? (through one’s own efforts alone).

Though she is ill enough for a doctor to be called, she likes to visit him by herself.

Jack hesitated to drive into a dark and vacant road by himself.

She occupied by herself the parking space large enough for two cars.

Pamela is unable to download it by herself since this is new to her.

Little Tanya made that paper boat all by herself.

Why did you let your wife go by herself such a far-off place?

He’s been living by himself since he’s broken up with Susan.

Little Jimmy slipped on the wet floor but stood up by himself.

Jill arrived late in the class to find the teacher by himself chit-chatting with another teacher.

Insist on doing something vs. Insist that; Insist on my/me (doing)


Insist on doing something (v.intr.) = To be resolute or firm in a demand or course: He insisted on paying for his share of the expenses.

Insist that (v.tr.) = To assert or demand (something) firmly or persistently; and often that something is true, especially when other people think it may not be true:

He insisted that he’d pay for his share of the expenses.

He merely insisted on paying for the dinner but didn’t take his wallet out.


Notice that we never say that someone ‘insists to do’ something.

He merely insisted to pay for the dinner but didn’t take his wallet out.         

Jane insisted on being posed for photograph next to the Statue of Liberty.

It was cold and wet outside so he insisted on staying at home.

Hilda had a painful and upsetting divorce – She doesn’t want to talk about it. I don’t understand why you insist on talking about it.

It has rained all day. I don’t know why you insist on watering the flowers.


The construction insist + infinitive is believed to be nonstandard which deviate from a commonly accepted language norm, and many native speakers would probably say it is not conforming to grammatical rules. The standard format is insist on + present participle:


If you insist to go out in this rain, you must take the umbrella.                   ✗

If you insist on going out in this rain, you must take the umbrella.             


In constructions such as “Jane insisted [that] Linda stayed the night“, most discreet speakers would use the subjunctive form “Jane insisted [that] Linda stay the night.” Here the subjunctive doesn’t “conjugate” (for different tenses, or Ist/ IInd / IIIrd person subject, etc.) in the same way as the infinitive.


My wife insisted that I stay with the kids for a couple of weeks before going back to work at Stanford.

This kind of construction is called ‘mandative subjunctive’ and is used to express circumstances that are desired, demanded, etc.


Many credible writers on ‘subjunctive’ point out that there is a possible confusion between the ‘indicative’ and ‘subjunctive’ mood in sentences with propose, insist and suggest:

She insists that he is at home for Christmas (indicative, a forceful assertion of the fact that he is at home).

She insists that he be at home for Christmas (subjunctive, a demand that the condition of his being at home be fulfilled).


Notice that do/does are not used in negative subjunctive sentences:

The doctor insisted that he doesn’t walk briskly until he has his stitches taken out.        

The doctor insisted that he not walk briskly until he has his stitches taken out.               


Insist on my/me (doing) = both are correct.

She insisted on my telling a joke. (preferred choice in writing; telling a joke is a gerund, a noun, so it takes the possessive my).

She insisted on me telling a joke. (informal; in spoken English)

Hence, “She insisted on my telling a joke ” and “She insisted on me telling a joke” are on an equal footing.

Different from vs. Different than vs. Different to


Different from = Standard phrase, the most common of the three; used in simple comparisons both in US and UK English


There’s not much difference in sense between the three expressions, and all of these have been used by eminent writers.

What actually happened was totally different from what the police gave their version.

Now it has become an established fact that this administration is different from previous administrations.

His latest novel is different from (any of) his previous novels (that he’s written).

He is one of the best attorneys on the job that I know and one wonders what makes him so different from his predecessors.

Jack gambled away all of his father’s savings and this day would be no different from all the others.

This plant grown in the tropical climate is going to be different from one grown in the temperate climate.


Different than = (mainly US) Not ungrammatical, but purists avoid it though there’s no real justification for it. Those in favour of different than argue that a sentence like It is no different for Congressmen than it is for Senators is OK by all means and rephrasing it to It is no different for Congressmen from the way it is for Senators’ looks clumsy and ill-chosen.

He looked different in this movie than he did in his last.

She didn’t look much different than when she was in her thirties.

Cameron Boyce certainly wants to look different than his co-stars in his latest movie.

Pamela wanted to do something different than her friends on Thanksgiving Day.

These chocolates taste very different than the ones the kids usually take from supermarket. (or … very different from/to the ones the kids usually take)

His get-up with a pinstriped suit and narrow tie is different now than before he went to Hong Kong. (or … different now from before he went to Hong Kong.)


Different to = Limited to British English (much more common in British English than American English)

The Ragged School Museum with respect to decorative arts and design is no different to any other major museum.

Despite having worn the same clothes, Christina looked so different to/from her twin sister.

When it comes to the corruption, the ruling party is no different to any of its predecessors.

A good stand-up comedian gets into your brain in a manner quite different to a comic book.

Food vs. Foods


Food is a non-countable noun when it means food in general (less food not fewer food); we don’t say one food or two foods. It is both singular and plural depending on the context of the statement, so foods is acceptable. (Many snack foods aren’t good for your health). We also use ‘foods’ when talk about varieties or types of food (foods like sandwiches, crisps and fruit):


Nobody can survive for long without food.

Why have you put so much food in your plate? Can you eat all this!

Her mother-in-law kept on talking with food in her mouth.

Those refugees in camps are running out of food.

This supermarket sells all varieties of foods from Chinese and Indian suppliers.

Many of these foods require refrigeration.

Here you can buy all foreign foods at reasonable prices and they’re unbeatable.

As she has just recovered after a long illness, the doctor said she needs to eat fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods.

His mother is allergic to certain foods; she can’t eat dairy, soy and a lot of other things!

He looked in the freezer and found all kinds of frozen foods, so he took everything he could lay his hands on.

Some of my favourite Italian foods are Panzenella, Bruschetta and Focaccia Bread.

Convert to vs. Convert into


Convert to = Change from one form to another; to a new religion, belief, opinion

Convert into = Change the nature, purpose, or function of something


After marriage, Sara made Adam convert to vegetarianism.

When she was a baby, she was raised by a priest and then converted to Catholicism.

Lara is a new convert to Christianity.

Jack always shied away from exercise, but his friend converted him (to it).


Before going through customs, they converted all their cash from Euros into dollars.

Hoping that the markets will improve, many small investors have converted their bonds into equity.

Adam has such strength of character that in a short span of time, he converted his most of critics into colleagues.

As the government is not capable to handle the affairs of beggars, they have converted the small sidewalk into a living room.

Can somebody tell the formula for converting yards into metres?

At the end of the 2000s, many residential areas converted into shopping malls.


Without to/ into

Most of the families in the community converted for fear (that) they would be killed.

The house, known as haunted, was attractively converted in 2005.

Penalty kicks most of the times have been converted. (in sport)

Masters Degree or Master’s Degree


Normally, we write master’s degree, with the apostrophe. Here, the s in master’s shows a possessive (the degree of a master), not a plural. However, when we talk of a degree in a specific field, like the Science or Arts, we drop the apostrophe and the s. Instead, capitalize both the words “master” and the field: Master of Art, Master of Science. The same rule is applicable to a bachelor’s degree.


Peter finally took his Master’s degree from University of Massachusetts in 2017. (Here, Master is capitalised, but not degree).

Also: He earned a Master of Fine Arts from Harvard. When you abbreviate these academic degrees, it would be a good idea if you check the style book to follow consistency. The rules vary from one style book to another.


These academic degrees can be abbreviated as MS, M.S., MSc, M.Sc., SM, S.M. (A Master of Science; Latin: Magister Scientiae), likewise, MA or M.A., and if the concerned university insists on Latin phrases, we can abbreviate it as AM or A.M. from the Latin Artium Magister.

Bachelor’s Degree adopts the same spelling rules as master’s degree. When we talk about the degree in general, we don’t need to capitalize it, the bachelor’s is written as a possessive, not a plural:

He has become so wayward, neglecting his studies and hanging around with bad company, that it wouldn’t be easy for him to get his bachelor’s degree.

He did his Bachelor of Science in Radiology at Boston College.

Mark will finally get a Master of Arts degree from the Occidental College.

Jane did an MA in fine arts at Louisiana State University.

Sophia had earned a Master’s Degree in business administration at the Guilford College before she migrated to Canada. 

Can you suggest how I can get a bachelor’s degree without going to college?

US – Singular or Plural; The US is or are …


Whether we treat the US as singular or plural, it depends on what we want to say about it. For example, if we’re treating the United States as the country, the singular form is OK:

The United States is a federal republic consisting of 50 states.


On the other hand, if we talk about the government in the United States which consists of a number of people, we may use a plural noun:

The United States choose not to overreact to criticism.


From the 18th century to the much of the 19th century, United States had been written as plural; however, towards the latter half of the 19th century, the singular usage came to the fore. In modern English, both the singular and plural usages are acceptable.


This singular plural difference is also evident from many other nouns in English. When we’re talking about the noun team:

The team gets a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of the game.


Here, the noun team is considered one unified thing. However, if the team consisting of several members who have some issues within the team, then this group of nouns can be treated as singular or plural depending on what it refers to.


Similarly, when we talk about the police, the navy, or the army, we can use singular or plural depending on the context. However, one thing is clear: when we consider them as a collection of individuals, we use a plural noun and when they are treated as a unified entity, they are considered plural.

Suppose vs. If vs. In case vs. Provided


As all these words denote the same meaning in the English language, don’t use any two words together in a sentence:

Suppose if the doctor operated on him in time, his life would be saved.    


Supposing = Used at the beginning of a sentence or clause to denote ‘what would happen if’:

Supposing (that) the would-be in-laws ask you why you left so lucrative job — what would be your reply?


However, we use be supposed to to express obligations and arrangements; it doesn’t mean for suggestions.

You are not supposed to stay here in the hospital after mid-night.

In conditional clauses, we use the present simple to refer to the future with if, in case and provided:

We’ll have the party in the house itself this Saturday if Father is out of town.

We often use be to + infinitive to express that something must happen first in the main clause, before the other thing can take place in the if-clause:

Anna Veith needs to improve her techniques, if she is to keep her hopes of gold alive at the next Olympics.


We use if…were + to-infinitive to say imaginary future situations (Unreal conditionals):

If the government funding were to become available, those neglected community hospitals would be better taken care of.

If she were to have a chance of winning gold in the next Olympics, she would need to train herself by a world-class expert.


When one situation is dependent on another situation or on a person, we use if it wasn’t/ weren’t for:

If it wasn’t/ weren’t for Sharon, his acting career wouldn’t begin to take off.

If it hadn’t been for Sharon, his acting career wouldn’t have begun to take off.

Were it not for Sharon, his acting career wouldn’t begin to take off.                          (Formal & Literary)

Had it not been for Sharon, his acting career wouldn’t have begun to take off.         (Formal & Literary)


We can use if…will when we talk about a result of something in the main clause.

Switch off the lights if it will help you to sleep.

However, using will twice in the same sentence is incorrect because adverbial clauses with when, if, provided, suppose, in case do not usually use the modal will. To indicate the future time within an if-clause, use the simple present:

The teacher will punish you if it will turn out that you stole the pen from Suzanne’s bag.             


We also use if…happen to, if…should, or if…should happen to to say about something which may be possible, but is unlikely to happen:

If you (should) happen to pass by my house, call in and have a cup of tea.

(Don’t use this pattern in unreal conditionals which express impossible events in the if-clause.)

If there was a blizzard, the school would be out before its schedule.


When two possibilities have been talked about or when we are not sure about something, we use whether/ if:

The Law makers couldn’t decide whether/ if it is worth trying to abstain from voting.

I’m not sure whether/ if Jane agrees with me on walking down the street in such late hours.


Provided (that) = If or only if:

Provided (that) the right teaching methods are available, we shall be able to solve the illiteracy problem in this village.

Some community services arrange for schoolchildren to work during their holidays and free time provided (that) proper government funding is available.


In case = if something happens:

Martha will bring a powerbank to the camping in case the battery runs low.

In case the car breaks down on your way home, ask someone for a ride.

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