The problem is as follows:

He attended school in England for several years, after _____ he returned home.

I think if the blank is filled with "that", it means the event itself, and that if it is "which", it can indicate the whole sentence before the clause.

So both are meaningful and acceptable, in my opinion.

  • I’d be inclined to include a comma if I was using that; therefore, I think it’s which.
    – J.R.
    Oct 6, 2017 at 1:00
  • As Boom says in his answer below, it can only be "which", since it is clearly a supplementary (non-defining) relative clause, i.e. the kind where "that" is not allowed. The relative pronoun in a supplementary relative can have almost anything (from a noun phrase to an entire clause) as antecedent. In your example, it is the noun phrase "several years".
    – BillJ
    Oct 6, 2017 at 11:04

1 Answer 1


The correct answer is “which” because of the presence of the comma:

He attended school in England for several years, after which he returned home.

The presence of a period would require “that” to be used:

He attended school in England for several years. After that he returned home.

  • Why? Answers without explanation aren't particularly helpful because they don't help learners extrapolate to other contexts. What's the difference between the two sentences in your answer?
    – ColleenV
    Oct 6, 2017 at 3:01
  • @ColleenV - I'm a bit confused by your comment. My answer very clearly includes explanation for both scenarios. The comma is the only reason to use "which" in the first, and the period is the only reason to use "that" in the second. The question did not ask about other contexts and there is no difference in meaning between the two sentences. If "that" is used in the first scenario you would be marked wrong in any English class.
    – user63211
    Oct 6, 2017 at 3:29
  • Why does a comma mean to use "which"? Can we ever use "that" after a comma, or can we only use it after a period? Does the word "after" have anything to do with it? What if the sentence was "He attended school in England for several years, because of which/that he was fluent in British English." ? I know this comes across as criticism, but I'm honestly just trying to help you attract some up-votes. I think this is one of those questions where native speakers just instinctively know which one is correct, but it's difficult to explain why we choose one over the other.
    – ColleenV
    Oct 6, 2017 at 11:29
  • @ColleenV, Are you serious? Those questions were not asked, so I don't really know why you are getting all uptight about me not addressing every conceivable combination of English words when the question itself limited the scope to only two options.
    – user63211
    Oct 6, 2017 at 16:15
  • In a which-one-should-I-choose question, an adequate answer will tell which option should be chosen. A more helpful answer will delve into more details, so learners can apply the appropriate rule(s) to other sentences besides the ones being asked about. I think that’s what @Colleen was driving at.
    – J.R.
    Oct 14, 2017 at 11:09

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