Can I use "those that VERB …" instead of "those who VERB …"? And if it's true, is it common?

I came across following sentence in a blog post.

I was doing demos in the PET and answering the questions from those that walked by.

I felt little difficulty to imagine people walking.

1 Answer 1


Instead of "answering the questions from those that walked by" we would probably say, "and answering any questions from passers-by" or "answering visitors' questions."

You can say "those that", but it's less used (at least in books) than "those who". "Those that" and "They that" frequently occur in the King James Bible of 1611, but they might sound a little old-fashioned nowadays.

By the way, that post is not a good piece of writing. "There was a translator repeating what Bill said into Japanese" is very poor English.

  • 1
    Yes, and I'll note that while you can use the relative pronoun "that" to refer to people (although it's less common than "who", as OB notes), you can NOT use the relative pronoun "which" to do so., at least in "standard" English. Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 11:23
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    @OldBrixtonian Thank you! I'm a English learner though, your suggestions sound natural. I usually read news, blogs, and resources from HackerNews to delight and learn English. However, I should consider blogs, I cannot measure writing level, is not appropriate for learning.
    – ryo
    Commented Jan 30, 2022 at 5:10
  • @ryo: You are welcome! Short stories might be fun to read. Maybe Sherlock Holmes stories. Or children's books: Holes, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Silver Sword, A Hundred Million Francs, Tom Sawyer... Alice in Wonderland is at Gutenberg... Commented Jan 30, 2022 at 7:29

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