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Friends are like stars, they come and go, but the ones that stay are the ones that glow.

This is a quote I read on Facebook and that is quite frequently used by some. I have doubts whether it's grammatical or not.

Should not it be those in place of that since ones is plural? The sentence then becomes:

Friends are like stars, they come and go, but the ones those stay are the ones those glow.

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    No, not quite. ...but those who stay are the ones who glow.... However, the correction is not required because we're talking about people as if they were stars. "The ones that" is fine. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 19 '15 at 11:20
  • It's slightly ungrammatical because it's a run-on sentence: the first comma should be a colon or full stop. – David Richerby May 19 '15 at 19:33
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No.

That in this case is a relative pronoun. You can replace it with other relative pronouns such as who or which.

Those is a demonstrative pronoun. There is no relative pronoun those. So those cannot be put where a relative pronoun is required.

"The ones those stay" is ungrammatical, and no native speaker will produce it. Probably not even by accident.

  • So , while using a relative pronoun . Can we use 'that' in both cases?When the clause is 'singular' and 'plural' ? – Shubham Ugare May 19 '15 at 11:29
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    Yes. Relative pronouns in English never change because in number. Who can optionally change to whom if it’s not the subject, but all other relative pronouns have only one form. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 19 '15 at 11:53
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    Maybe it's better to say that the relative pronoun that is completely unrelated to the demonstrative pronouns that/those. Also, I'd say that who doesn't "change to" whom, but they also must be treated as different words altogether. – André Chalella May 19 '15 at 15:24
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You are mixing up two uses of "that".

You are entirely correct that if the sentence were:

That one stays; that one glows.

then the plural would be:

Those ones stay; those ones glow.

However, in the actual example sentence (the ones that stay are the ones that glow), "that" is being used as part of a relative clause to provide more information about the antecedent.

Like this:

The house that she bought was really expensive.

Here, "that she bought" is a relative clause telling you more about the house. It's actually a defining (or restrictive) relative clause, because you aren't just providing more information about the house, you're using the relative clause to specify exactly which house you mean.

In the same way, in your example sentence, "that stay" is specifying exactly which "ones" you mean: the friends (or stars) who stay are the friends (or stars) who glow. You can't replace it with "those" because this is a different meaning of "that" that doesn't have a plural form.

This goes beyond the scope of your question, but if you are interested in further reading about the difference between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses, take a look at the usage note at the bottom of The Free Dictionary's page on that. But don't trouble yourself overly over the differences between exactly when you can use "that" and when to use "which" in sentences where they have the same meaning; native speakers are fairly fluid with them in all but the most formal of writing.

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