relative pronouns

 

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

Comments

Hello teachers,

I am confused of using comma between relative pronouns and subjects, objects of the sentences. I found that there is a comma in some sentences but not in others. I would like to know clearly.

Thanks and Regards,
Aye

Hello Aye,

We use commas in non-defining relative clauses but not in defining relative clauses.

You can find more information on each of these herehere and here.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,

In the exercise there is this sentence:
"Where is the girl WHICH/THAT is selling the ice-cream"

Could you please tell me why we cannot use WHO in this sentence in place of WHICH/THAT?

Thank you!

Hello adtyagrwl3,

The correct answer (which you can see if you click 'Submit' or 'Finish') is 'who or that', not 'which or that'. I've checked the exercise and I'm not sure why you think 'which or that' is correct.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I tried to make the exercises correctly, but I made a mistake of some kind at question 6, can anyone please explain why I can't use 'that' in the sentence? (sentence: She wrote a best-selling book, the name of ....... I've completely forgotten.

thank you!

Hello Daan Brocatus,

'The name of which' is another way of saying 'whose' and we do not use 'that' in this phrase. We do not use 'that' in any phrases of this type:

The person of whom not *The person of that*

The person of which not *The place of that*

The time of which not *The time of that*

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello to all,
May I ask a quick question at the risk of sounding stupid?
Today I encountered a confusing situation and that is why I need a little help.
I know the following sentence is totally true with no awkward issue:
She read the book which you gave her.
However, I don't know why I think this sentence could also be true ( But I am well aware it is absolutely unusual ). Only syntactically, is this one also correct?
She read the book which you gave it to her.
Thanks

Hello AmirEs,

As you say, the first sentence is fine. The second sentence, however, is not correct. To make it correct, we need to remove the 'it':

She read the book which you gave her.

In this sentence 'which' is the object of 'gave'. If we try to add 'it' then we have another object referring to the same thing, which is not necessary and is not correct. So, the reason the sentence is wrong is because it has two words referring to the same object of one verb in the same sentence.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there,

I don't understand when to use "that" and when to use "which"! would anyone be able to explain?
thank you,

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