[Source:] The titles in the following list are those given in James York's 1868 translation into English.[5]

The Prologue
1. Relates to what happened to a Moorish king of Cordova. This story is based on the life of Al-Hakam II: his battles repulsing the last Norman attacks, and the struggle against the Zirids and the Fatimids in northern Morocco.
2. Treats of that which happened to Lorenzo Suarez Gallinato, and Garciperez of Vargas, and another knight ...

5. Of that which happened to the Emperor Frederick[disambiguation needed] and Don Alvar Fañez, with their wives
6. Of that which happened to the Count of Provence and Saladin the Sultan of Babylon
7. Of that which happened to a King and three Impostors

In these titles, to what noun phrase does (the relative pronoun) that refer ?
I know that 'which' starts the restrictive relative clause modifying that.
(I was going to write '...relative clause THAT modifies that', but this looks confusing)

Obiter dictum: I was reading The Emperor's New Clothes which linked to this page.

1 Answer 1


Michael Swan, author of Practical English Usage (1995), considers that which to be an older form of what. In fact, he says that the form that which is very unusual in modern English. However, a search in Google shows that there are over 1.5 million hits for that which; surely, that many sources can't be completely off the mark!

  • On my browser, Google says it's over 68 million hits. However, this figure is not always reliable. (I think it's almost always the case that we can ignore the number of hits Google reports.) To demonstrate how rare and declining this usage is, I tried searching for the string "that which" by restricting it to "21st century" on Google Books. I was able to go only 40 pages far, i.e. less than 400 hits. Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 20:09
  • That which occurs these days almost exclusively in contexts where the speaker/writer is attempting to define something. No one says, for example, *When you go mountain climbing, be sure to take that which you need to scale the peak."
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 22:48

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