1. The relative pronouns:

The relative pronouns are:
 

Subject  Object  Possessive
who whom, who whose
which which whose
that that  


We use who and whom for people, and which for things.
We use that for people or things.

We use relative pronouns to introduce relative clauses, which tell us more about people and things.

2. Relative clauses to postmodify a noun 

We use relative clauses to postmodify a noun - to make clear which person or thing we are talking about. In these clauses we can have the relative pronoun who, which, whose or that

  • as subject (see Clauses Sentences and Phrases)

Isn’t that the woman who lives across the road from you?
The police said the accident that happened last night was unavoidable
The newspaper reported that the tiger which killed its keeper has been put down.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the subject of the clause.
We do not repeat the subject:

*The woman who [she] lives across the road…
*The tiger which [it] killed its keeper …

  • as object of a clause (see Clauses, Sentences and Phrases)

Have you seen those people who we met on holiday?
You shouldn’t believe everything that you read in the newspaper.
The house that we rented in London was fully furnished.
The food was definitely the thing which I enjoyed most about our holiday.

- Sometimes we use whom instead of who when the relative pronoun is the object:

Have you seen those people whom we met on holiday?

- When the relative pronoun is object of its clause we sometimes leave it out:

Have you seen those people we met on holiday?
You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.
The house we rented in London was fully furnished.
The food was definitely the thing I enjoyed most about our holiday.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the object of the clause.
We do not repeat the object:

Have you seen those people who we met [them] on holiday?
The house that we rented [it] in London was fully furnished.
The food was definitely the thing I enjoyed [it] most about our holiday.

  • as object of a preposition. When the relative pronoun is the object of a preposition we usually put the preposition after the verb.:

You were talking to a woman >>> Who was the woman who you were talking to?
My parents live in that house >>> That’s the house that my parents live in.
You were talking about a book. I haven’t read it. >>> I haven’t read the book which you were talking about.

- When the relative pronoun is the object of a preposition we usually leave it out:

Who was the woman you were talking to?
That’s the house my parents live in.

- Sometimes we use whom instead of who:

Who was that woman whom you were talking about.

- When we use whom, which or whose the preposition sometimes comes at the beginning of the clause:

I haven’t read the book about which you were talking.

- We can use the possessive form, whose, in a relative clause:

I always forget that woman’s name >>> That’s the woman whose name I always forget.
I met a man whose brother works in Moscow.

3. Times and places

We also use when with times and where with places to make it clear which time or place we are talking about:

England won the world cup in 1996. It was the year when we got married.
I remember my twentieth birthday. It was the day when the tsunami happened.
Do you remember the place where we caught the train?
Stratford-upon-Avon is the town where Shakespeare was born.

... but we can leave out the word when:

England won the world cup in 1996. It was the year we got married.
I remember my twentieth birthday. It was the day the tsunami happened.

4. Giving additional information

 We use who, whom, whose, and which (but not that) in relative clauses to tell us more about a person or thing.

  • as subject (see Clauses, Sentences and Phrases)

My uncle, who was born in Hong Kong, lived most of his life overseas.
I have just read Orwell’s 1984, which is one of the most frightening books ever written.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the subject of the clause.
We do not repeat the subject:

My uncle, who [he] was born in Hong Kong, lived most of his life overseas.
I have just read Orwell’s 1984, which [it] is one of the most frightening books ever written.

  • as object (see Clauses, Sentences and Phrases)

We saw the latest Harry Potter film, which we really enjoyed.
My favourite actor is Marlon Brando, who I saw in “On the Waterfront”.

- we can use whom instead of who as object:

My favourite actor was Marlon Brando, whom I saw in “On the Waterfront”.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the object of the clause.
We do not repeat the object:

We saw the latest Harry Potter film, which we really enjoyed [it].
My favourite actor is Marlon Brando, who I saw [him] in “On the Waterfront”.

  • as object of a clause :

He finally met Paul McCartney, whom he had always admired.
We are going back to Venice, which we first visited thirty years ago.

We can also use who as the object.

He finally met Paul McCartney, who he had always admired.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the object of the clause.
We do not repeat the object:

He finally met Paul McCartney, whom he had always admired [him].
We are going back to Venice, which we first visited [it] thirty years ago.

  • as object of a preposition:

He decided to telephone Mrs. Jackson, who he had read about in the newspaper.
That’s the programme which we listened to last night.

- We sometimes use whom instead of who:

He decided to telephone Mrs. Jackson, whom he had read about in the newspaper.

- The preposition sometimes comes in front of the relative pronoun whom or which:

He decided to telephone Mrs. Jackson, about whom he had read in the newspaper.
That’s the programme to which we listened last night.

5.  Quantifiers and numbers with relative pronouns

 We often use quantifiers and numbers with relative pronouns:

many of whom - most of whom - one of which - none of whom
some of which - lots of whom - two of which - etc.

We can use them as subject, object or object of a preposition.

She has three brothers, two of whom are in the army.
I read three books last week, one of which I really enjoyed.
There were some good programmes on the radio, none of which I listened to.

6. Using  "which" to give more information

We often use the relative pronoun which to say something about a clause:

He was usually late, which always annoyed his father.
We’ve missed our train, which means we may be late.

 

Rearrange the parts to make sentences.

Match the sentence halves.

Section: 

Comments

Hello Gentlemen,

I have listed some possibilities for relative clause(when, where,why), would you please to confirm correct or incorrect?

1. Where
a. I recently went back to the town where I was born.
b. I recently went back to the town that I was born in.
c. I recently went back to the town which I was born in.
d. I recently went back to the town (omitted that/which) I was born in.

2. When
a. do you still remember the day when we first met?
b. do you still remember the day that we first met? (that = when)
c. do you still remember the day (omitted when/that) we first met?
d. do you still remember the day on which we first met? (preposition+which/that)
e. do you still remember the day on that we first met? (preposition+which/that)

3. Why
a. The reason why I am phoing you is to invite you to a party.
b. The reason that I am phoing you is to invite you to a party.
c. The reason (omitted) I am phoing you is to invite you to a party.
d. The reason for which I am phoing you is to invite you to a party.
e. The reason for that I am phoing you is to invite you to a party.

They were talking about an accident happened on Vercailles Street when I arrived here.
They were talking about an accident happening on Vercailles Street when I arrived here.

Which one is grammatically correct?

Hello Widanti,

The second one is better, though I'd suggest 'an accident that had happened' as a third alternative. The first is definitely not grammatically correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

They said the patient who booked appointment three days ago was a former member of a famous band.

They said the patient, whom they booked appointment three days ago, was a former member of a famous band.

Are these sentences correct? Are there any differences in actual use? Thanks

Hello Oloap,

The first sentence, which uses a defining relative clause, is grammatically correct, except that 'appointment' should be 'an appointment' (since it is a singular count noun). The second one, which uses a non-defining relative clause, is also almost correct -- the preposition 'for' is needed inside the clause (e.g. 'who they booked an appointment for ...').

I think the explanation on those two pages will clarify the (slight) difference between them, but if you have any further questions about it, please don't hesitate to ask.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I was wondering about this sentence:

I was moved to see the baseball team came from behind and won the game.

It was from an ESL student's writing composition.

I fixed it like this.

I was moved to see that the baseball team came from behind and won.

Could you explain why that is necessary there? Is this a relative pronoun problem?

Hello bcobar,

I'm not sure we'd use 'moved' in this context, to be honest. The emotion is more internal and personal than that which we would associate with a sporting event. Something like 'excited' or 'delighted' would be more likely, I think.

The verb 'see' is an ergative verb - it can be either transitive or intransitive. In this example it is transitive and its object is a that-clause. We can omit 'that' from the clause.

To see other verbs which can be followed by that-clauses see this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Teacher,
I would like to combine these 2 sentences using relative clause:
"I live in a big city. The pace of life of the city is fast"
Can I write it as below:
1) I live in a big city which its pace of life is fast
2) I live in a big city which has fast pace of life
3) I live in a big city of which pace of life is fast
Thank you

Hello Kaisoo,

I'm afraid that 1 and 3 are not correct. 2 is almost correct -- it just needs an article before 'fast pace of life', e.g. '... has a fast pace of life'. By the way, just to give you another alternative to think about, you could also write this as 'The city where I live has a fast pace of life'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers,
I still have trouble differentiate between which and where, especially when it comes to multiple choice exercises, such as:

-The place ......................... we spent our holiday was really beautiful.
-London Bridge is one of the most popular places .................. people want to visit

I often use my sense of language to find the answers, but can never provide an explanation for my choice. I want to know if there is any way to know when to use which or where, either in this kind of exercise or in writing in general. Thank you very much.

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