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As I am proof-reading my own writing, I am not sure if which one of these two sentences sounds clearer.

Language skill can bring distinct advantages that set those learning it apart from their monolingual peers

Language skill can bring distinct advantages to those learning it, which sets them apart from their monolingual peers

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  • In the first one, "sets" is wrong because it's a plural subject ("advantages") + a singular verb (sets). You can't reduce the sentence to "The advantages sets...". In the second one, you have "which" (used as singular) with "sets" (also singular) which sounds much better. Aug 13, 2019 at 10:44
  • .. but in the second one, "language skills" is plural, but "it" is singular.
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 13, 2019 at 15:13
  • FYI - the present participle setting works nicely here. Language skill can bring distinct advantages to those learning it, setting them apart from their peers.
    – EllieK
    Jul 11, 2022 at 15:18

2 Answers 2

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The usage of which vs that is a common grammatical confusion. A general rule of thumb to remember is :

'Which' is used to provide additional information about the subject but is not necessary ( in a way that it doesn't change the meaning of the sentence ).

For example :

'Our office, which has two lunchrooms, is located in Cincinnati'.

Here, 'which has two lunchrooms' provides an additional information about the office but it doesn't change the fact that it is located in Cincinnati.

Now consider,

Our office that has two lunchrooms is located in Cincinnati.

The usage of 'that' here is a must to point out that we are talking about one of our offices which has two lunchrooms. ( aka restrictive clause )

Another thing to note is : That refers mostly to things, though a class or type of person is also sometimes referred to by this pronoun:

“He has the key that fits in this door.”

“This is a team that is going places.”

So technically, the first sentence seems to be more correct to me.

Sources:

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  • "Which" is perfectly acceptable in integrated relative clauses. Examples like "The film which I needed is not obtainable" is grammatically fine.
    – BillJ
    Aug 13, 2019 at 6:54
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Both sentences are acceptable and I would find it hard to find any difference in meaning or clarity between them. If you find the second one clearer, then you should use it.

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