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Remember to focus on the things and people who/that matter during these times of trouble.

I'm trying to write this phrase, following the Chicago Manual guidelines, which suggest using who for people, but since we have both things and people here, for some reasons, that seems better.

I also know there is a rule of thumb to use the closest word in some cases: "there is a vase, some pencils, two books..."

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    You might feel more comfortable applying that "rule of thumb" (match to the nearest word) if you reverse the sequence of the two "syntactically incompatible" nouns: Focus on the people and things that matter. But it's a very fine point of style (just because CMOS recommends using "who" for "people" doesn't mean it's actually ungrammatical to refer to people that you know, for example. Mar 5 at 16:22
  • It may be worth noting that the sequence people that I know is twice as common in Google Books as people who I know. Mar 5 at 16:24
  • @FumbleFingers, perhaps, people whom I know should be added to that search. Mar 7 at 0:38
  • @DrMoishePippik: You're absolutely right, of course. I never even thought of using "whom" there (almost completely abandoned by me personally decades ago). But even if I add everything for "who" and "whom" together the preference for "that" is much greater. Mar 8 at 13:08

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