The relative pronouns are:

 

Subject Object Possessive
who who(m) whose
which which whose
that that  

 


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

We use relative pronouns:

after a noun, to make it clear which person or thing we are talking about:

the house that Jack built
the woman who discovered radium
an eight-year-old boy who attempted to rob a sweet shop

to tell us more about a person or thing:

My mother, who was born overseas, has always been a great traveller.
Lord Thompson, who is 76, has just retired.
We had fish and chips, which is my favourite meal.

But we do not use that as a subject in this kind of relative clause.

We use whose as the possessive form of who:

This is George, whose brother went to school with me.

We sometimes use whom as the object of a verb or preposition:

This is George, whom you met at our house last year.
This is George’s brother, with whom I went to school.

But nowadays we normally use who:

This is George, who you met at our house last year.
This is George’s brother, who I went to school with.

When whom or which have a preposition the preposition can come at the beginning of the clause...

I had an uncle in Germany, from who[m] I inherited a bit of money.
We bought a chainsaw, with which we cut up all the wood.

or at the end of the clause:

I had an uncle in Germany who[m] I inherited a bit of money from.
We bought a chainsaw, which we cut all the wood up with.

We can use that at the beginning of the clause:

I had an uncle in Germany that I inherited a bit of money from.
We bought a chainsaw that we cut all the wood up with.

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hello.
She worked for a small company ....... .
a.that sold books
b.which it sold books.
What's the difference between a and b?

Hello amirfd,

The first option is a defining relative clause where the relative pronoun 'that' is the subject of the verb 'sold'.

The second option is incorrect. You can use 'which' or 'that' but there is no need for 'it' as the relative pronoun is the subject of the verb.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The fourth question "he tore up the photograph" why using Which only not which or that, I can't understand?

Hello Aliaa Abu-Yazied,

The example here is a non-defining relative clause (note the comma) and so 'that' is not possible. We use 'that' only in defining relative clauses.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I don't understand this clause: They had four children, all of ............... went to university.
Why we don't use "which", and we use only "whom"?

Hello Elmar,

The relative pronoun 'that' is not used after prepositions (here, 'of' is a preposition). 'whom' is the best form here, since it refers to people (the children).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Already I understood. Thanks a lot.

Sorry, I wanted to say "that", not "which".

Hello!

I don't understand why we use 'which' but not 'that' in the phrase 'She wrote a best- selling book, the name of which I've completely forgotten.'
I guess that forgot the name of book, not the person who wrote the book,
Can you help me please?
Thanks

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