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Meaning of “Не бойся собаки, что лает, а бойся той, что молчит да хвостом виляет”

"Не бойся собаки, что лает, а бойся той, что молчит да хвостом виляет"

Can you explain that что-construction in the proverb above? I know that there is another version with reads "Не бойся собаки, которая лает..." which I understand, as которая refers back to собака.

However, in the first variant, since собака is animate, I am confused by the use of что, which usually refers to inanimate nouns. If anything, I would have expected "Не бойся собаки, *кто* лает ...".

Can you explain, why the что-construction is used and why it is correct in this context?

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Answered by on

Hi Stefan,

Sometimes что is used instead of который, not in the modern language though. It is quite common in proverbs and poetry. Что was even used with people.

For example,

Устал тот ветер, что листал страницы мировой истории.
The wind, that scrolled through the world history, got tired.

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