that vs. who

Today in the car, I played Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone” six times in a row. I know. I get obsessed like that sometimes. Of course, when I sing along, I can’t help but correct a grammar mistake in the second verse:

Looking at you makes it harder
But I know that you’ll find another
That doesn’t always make you wanna cry

“That” should be “who,” since it refers to a person — her ex’s next lover. “That” is reserved for things. If she hoped her ex would find, say, a movie that wouldn’t make him cry, “that” would be appropriate.

If you get tripped up, you can often look at the word just before that or who for a clue on which to use.  Kelly Clarkson is a singer who sounds fantastic live. She wrote a song that everyone can relate to. “Who” refers to singer (a person), while “that” refers to song (a thing). Sometimes, as in the “Already Gone” lyrics, you need context to figure it out, but it’s pretty clear she means a person.

Just for fun, here’s Kelly doing a stripped-down version of “Already Gone” on Jimmy Kimmel.

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3 responses to “that vs. who

  1. Katie, your blog rules!

  2. Congrats on the blog! But you haven’t answered my amonsgt/whilst question;> Are they proper when used in American English? It’s driving me quite mad.

  3. This is good stuff. Sometimes I mix that/who up. 😉

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