There's not only one answer.

A student of mine, who is in the 3rd year of junior high school, asked me the following question yesterday.

She said, "Ms. VibrantRose, is it correct or incorrect?-The girl that has long hair is my sister."
I answered, "I think it is right. Why?"
She continued, "When I tried one of the English questions for the entrance exam for high school I'll take this month, its answer said the girl who has long hair is my sister. Is my answer correct?"

I looked the answer and sighed.............Why?
That's because there was ONLY one answer: The girl (who) (has) long hair is my sister.

About this question, an original sentence was "The girl with long hair is my sister", and she filled in the blanks to be the same meaning. There were two blanks, and she chose "that" because she had learned "who" and "that" could be used in this case. What's more, there wasn't any requirement that she shouldn't choose "that".
That is why she was a little confused and asked me about it.

If I learned correctly, both ways are fine in this case. Maybe, is it an exception to the grammar or something? Um...no..I don't think so.....
However, I didn't want to tell her anything wrong, and I asked my friends from America and England to make sure of it, just in case.
They replied me quickly and said, "Both ways are right and natural."


Of course, 'who' is generally chosen, and I would do that. It is true that some argue "that" should be wrong. But what I want to say is every student or English learner shouldn't think there is only one answer, and they should expand your knowledge to choose the best one, depending on the situation.

I think this is one of the reasons why Japanese students are still struggled in English. Some students who have a good command of English would be confused like her, others who aren't good at it could learn only the answers their text books say. I think, of course, their teachers tell them not only correct answers but also other useful knowledge, though.

Anyway, the more deeply they learn English, the more they will be confused....I would like to help them anytime so that their English will be able to improve greatly in the future. This is my labor of love. lol


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Hi, Inko-san
Thank you for visiting and giving me your comment.

Yes, as you said, the exam setter required "who", and "that" isn't incorrect, but in this case it would be wrong.

Let me get this straight. I don't mean which is correct or wrong. I don't mean that the both should be correct at this point. I mean every student should learn not only corrrect answers but also other knowledge. And they should choose the best one, depending on the situation.

Let me give you other examples here.
We learned 'should' and 'had better' when we were students, weren't we?
'Should' means ~すべきである、~して当然だ, and 'had better' means ~した方がよい
Eevery student learns these meanings and they are apt to directly connect one to Japanese. In fact, I was one of them when I was a student. After graduating, I was totally shocked to know that I realized I had studied English for "tests" not for "skills".

Actually, we very often use 'should' instead of 'had better', don't we? Because we know the latter is generally used if someone doesn't do something now, something bad or a problem could be happened. In addition, it might sound a little strong.
We can use each one, depending on the situation. However, not all students can do that because they learned the above way.
This is the point I'm worried about their English and Japanese education methods.
This time, I felt like that.

Of course I told her to choose the best one although 'that' wasn't incorrect. I hope my students keep learning English not only to pass the exam or get high scores on the tests but also to expand their knowledge for their future.

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Hello Rose さん

It was an interesting post for me and I searched the difference between " who " and " that " online. I've found a paper written about that by a graduate.
Please refer to the link.

It says about 80 percent of 主格の関係代名詞 use "who".
"that " is not an incorrect answer though, in most case people use "who".
Maybe you can tell her the differences and make her understand what the answer was intended.

As you said in the post, it's nonsense to score students performance with one answer.
I hope this small thing didn't change her attitude towards English!

応援クリックお願いします(^^) 励みになります♪       


Author: VibrantRose TOEIC 935 (2018.4) TESOL認定講師