Who vs. That

A who is a human. A that is anything else. These words aren’t interchangeable.

COLD DISTANCE: “Jerry, the auto mechanic that fixed my car last time, has moved on to another shop.”
APPROPRIATE RECOGNITION: “Jerry, the auto mechanic who fixed my car last time, has moved on to another shop.”

There’s some debate about which pronoun (who, that) to use when the antecedent (the word that the pronoun refers to—in the above example it’s auto mechanic) is a description of a person rather than a name. I vote for using who unless it seems too awkward. Even if you’re not using names, you’re still referring specifically to people. Use the personal pronoun.

SOME WOULD WRITE: “The teachers that put in long hours get satisfactory results.”
I WOULD WRITE: “The teachers who put in long hours get satisfactory results.”

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