Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Maybe We Can Still Return It

When we were planning our wedding, my husband and I were hesitant to register for gifts. We thought it was presumptuous to flat out tell people what to buy for us. We ended up registering because our guests demanded it, but now I wish I could register every time we have people over for dinner. (Would it be weird to register for new front brakes?)

And, if I could go back, I would definitely register differently. It turns out that matrimony didn’t inspire in me all the things TV promised me it would. For example, my KitchenAid mixer has been collecting dust for six years because it turns out saying “I do” didn’t mean “I do want to start baking cakes.” Nor have my husband and I used our espresso maker to whip up Sunday morning lattes to sip as we peruse the morning paper on our porch because we don’t have a porch and Starbucks is down the street.

I am pretty jealous of today’s couples because now there are such cool registry options. For example, I am going to a wedding next month, and I just checked out the couple’s registry. It’s awesome- they registered for an apple tree. Another cool thing about Amazon is that couples get to prioritize their gifts; they can distinguish their must-haves from their it-would-be-nice-to-haves.

Like registries, our sentences have their must-haves and their it-would-be nice-to-haves. There are some phrases that our sentences must contain in order to convey the meaning, while there are also some phrases that are nice to include but not essential to the meaning of the sentence:

We use that to introduce the phrases we need.

We use which to introduce phrases that are non-essential to the sentence’s meaning.

Here are some examples:

Let’s register for the KitchenAid mixer that has the ergonomic handle.

The phrase has the ergonomic handle is essential. Without it, the sentence would be

Let’s register for the KitchenAid mixer.

Without the phrase, we run the risk of receiving a wrist-damaging appliance.

Because the phrase contains essential information, it must be introduced by that. When we use that, we do not use a comma.

Here’s an example of non-essential information:

The KitchenAid mixer that has the ergonomic handle, which you said you would use to bake the most delicious cakes, is still in the original packaging.

If we take out the phrase which you said you would use to bake the most delicious cakes, we are left with a sentence with complete meaning:

The KitchenAid mixer that has the ergonomic handle is still in the original packaging.

The phrase which you said you would use to bake the most delicious cakes is simply extra-information. It was just a little comment my husband wanted to add. These kinds of extra-information comments are quite common in marriage. When you use them, make sure to use commas:

Here are your missing keys, which I found stuffed in the couch again.

The dishes, which you promised to wash, are still in the sink.

And, here are some helpful tips:

• To remember that we use that for essential phrases and which for non-essential phrases, memorizing these phrases may help: I must have that and which would be nice.

• For a happy marriage, try to register for marriage counseling, a wine club membership, and cable TV.


Invisible Work said...

Thank you for clearing this up! Thanks for listening to your followers. :)

keppi baranick said...

Just so good! I cannot wait for my next grammar lesson. love.