Should THAT Be Allowed to Stand In for WHO?
A reader writes to deplore the use of the relative pronoun that when the antecedent is person:
English is my second language, and it hurts to see the rampant disrespect everywhere for a person who
Here’s the offending sentence in a recent DWT post that prompted the objection:
A fervent person is one that feels very intensely about a subject.
The reader’s comment sent me to some of my recent writing to see if I make a practice of this usage.
A spot check of about seven articles yielded the following clause constructions:
…the 17-year-old who was the 23rd child to be abandoned under the law…
A ten-year-old who can follow an audiobook…
The only ones who profit from doling out reading word by word…
A student who never did anything but come to class…
…grandparents who would like to give away unruly children.
…candidates who win on Election Day
Writers who want to use the expression correctly…
Commentators who don’t know their Shakespeare…
I didn’t find any “that” examples. No recent ones, anyway.
The only explanation I can come up with for my choice of that over who in the “fervent” sentence is that the hypothetical “person”of the definition was too much of an abstraction to trigger the “who” button in my brain.
What do other readers think?
Does person that instead of person who drive you wild?
Or do you accept the use of the relative pronoun that in place of who after nouns that refer to people?
Related post: Beware of Whom
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