I was doing some problems sets and came across the sentence, "I used to work for a company who manufactured automatic processing machines." I need to find errors in this sentence and I think one of them is to change "machines" to "machine."

Also, I thought maybe "who" shouldn't be used because it's the company it's referring to, but am I right? This is not the first time I came across sentences that use "who" for other than human beings.

So, is using "who" to refer to something other than human grammatically correct? Thank you.

2 Answers 2


The more natural thing for this sentence would be to use "that", and it is almost certainly the error you are being asked to fix:

"I used to work for a company that manufactured automatic processing machines."

You can use "who" to refer to animals, especially when talking to them. "Who's a good dog?" (wag, wag, bark!) "That's right, you are!"

But companies are "it" and "that"...or possibly "they".

"Have you seen the latest video game from Bungie? They really are rehashing Halo, I don't see much new in it."

Changing "machines" to "machine" would not be correct at all. Although if the company really only made one thing, you might say:

"I used to work for a company that manufactured an automatic processing machine."

This would most likely suggest that the company only made instances of one model of this machine (as opposed to the idea that they'd only made one machine, ever). They might--as @Jim points out--manufacture other things.

Note that you can use other ways to refer to "companies". For instance:

From the people who brought you "Finding Nemo" and "Toy Story" comes an all-new animated adventure...

You wouldn't--however--say:

From the studio who brought you "Finding Nemo" and "Toy Story" comes an all-new animated adventure...

That's another case where you'd use that instead of who.

  • 2
    I don't think it means they only make that machine but simply that they only make one model. Consider, what companies out there make cell phones? Well, there's Samsung, Nokia... Apple makes one, well a couple actually, Amazon makes one too. This certainly does not imply that a phone is the only thing they make.
    – Jim
    Sep 16, 2014 at 2:00
  • @Jim Fair enough. Edited. Sep 16, 2014 at 5:58

Using "who" is strictly for pronouns like " he/she" however, for an object you're supposed to refer to it using "whom".

Check this http://www.englishpage.com/minitutorials/who_whom.html for more information.

  • Why the down vote?..
    – Scarl
    Sep 24, 2014 at 11:16

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