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.
They worked for companies .............high salaries.
a.that paid
b.which paid
c.paying
What's the difference?

Hello amirfd,

What do you think? Please tell us how see the answers -- this will help us help you more effectively.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.
I think all options are correct.
What do you think?

Hello amirfd,

I think you are correct - all of the options are grammatically acceptable here. There is no great difference between the options, I would say. Some might say that the options with 'that' and 'which' suggest a more causal relationship - i.e. they chose companies which paid well - whereas the relationship is not so clear in the sentence with the -ing form. However, I don't think this is necessarily the case, and the context will make any causal relationship clear.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In writing a business letter is it too wordy to say "We regret to learn that your card that is being used for your account was cancelled due to fraudulent activity."

Hello Ayesha25,

The sentence is both too wordy and incorrect grammatically. It's hard for me to be sure what you want to say as the tenses in the sentence are unclear, meaning the time references are not clear. I also don't know why 'learn' is used here, or who is writing to whom - if it is a letter from a bank then something like '...regret to (have to) inform you...' would be appopriate, for example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Pages