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1) The only person who can read and write English well is my friend.

2) The only person that can read and write English well is my friend.

Which one is correct? What is the difference in meaning between them?

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    There is a slight preference for "who" because it is subject of the relative clause, but essentially it's a free choice here. There's no difference in meaning.
    – BillJ
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 6:22

3 Answers 3

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To answer your direct question, both sentences are correct, and there is no difference in meaning between them, so they are interchangeable.

The following English Language and Usage post has an excellent discussion, which speaks to BillJ's comment and provides further evidence in line with the comments AIQ and RubioRic provided to Sagar's answer.

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The natives can tell the exact usage. But authentic grammar books say that the 2nd sentence is correct.

CGEL (page, 1251)

When the antecedent is modified by a superlative or by one of the post-determiners first, last, next, only, the relative pronoun as subject is usually that, and as object, that or zero rather than which or who(m).

Practical English Usage, Fourth Edition, 233.4

That is especially common after quantifiers like all, every(thing), some(thing), any(thing), no(thing), none, little, few, much, only, and after superlatives.

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  • And neither of these sources is categorical. The first says "usually", the second "especially common". And neither of them uses the word "correct" at all.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 12:16
  • It's true that with non-personal antecedents a non-wh reletive word is preferred in certain situations, as CGEL points out. But with personal antecedents things are different and "who" is slightly preferred by some speakers when the relative word is subject. and "that" elsewhere.
    – BillJ
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 12:44
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I think the link below would help you clear.

https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/relative-clauses.html

We can use 'who', 'which' or 'that'. We use 'who' for people and 'which' for things. We can use 'that' for people or things.

Personally,I think they were not different.

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