Usage and Grammar

Q. Is it “companies and people who dodge taxes” or “companies and people that dodge taxes”? What if the order is changed?

A. The relative pronouns “who” and “that” can both be used to apply to people or groups thereof, so “companies who,” “companies that,” “people who,” and “people that” are all strictly correct. However, readers tend to expect “that” with an abstract collective noun like “companies” and “who” in references to people—collective or not. When the two nouns are paired, choose the relative pronoun that would fit best with the nearest antecedent: “people and companies that,” but “companies and people who.” The choice is somewhat arbitrary, but at least some readers are likely to appreciate the distinction, particularly in that last pairing.