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Do you use which or when in cleft sentences? If no, is there any grammar rule about this

For example,

It's money that we want. or It's money which we want.

It was today that I saw him. or It was today when I saw him.

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  • I don't think there's a 'rule' here. "That" seems to be generally preferred in all cases, but "when" is also possible in your second example. Note that "who" is also fine with personal antecedents, as in "It was Ed that /who Kim married".
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 11:13
  • Thank you, BillJ. How about 'which'?
    – user121695
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 15:06
  • "Which" would work, but "that" very much preferred.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 15:25
  • "Which" sounds more like "What's that?" "It's money which we're going to put in the bank."
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 21 at 14:33

1 Answer 1

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I don’t think “which” works in your first example, as “money” is too generic. For me, “which” would only work when you are talking about some specific amount/entity of money, as opposed to referring to just “wanting money”, as in, “I work because I want money.”

Both are fine in your second example, but again I would go with “that” here. “When” is a somewhat “heavier”/more specific word, and so I wouldn’t use it unless it was necessary/required for the sake of clarity.

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  • To me, "It's money which we want" means as opposed to other money that we don't want. Which isn't the intended meaning.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 21 at 14:32

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