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

Dear Team
In this sentence: "I had an uncle in Germany that I inherited a bit of money from."
you used "that" for a person, while you have said before that "that" cannot be used for humans, and used the same sentence with "who" instead.
please explain.
Thank you.

Hello mohammad bazzy,

I think your memory may be playing tricks on you! It is perfectly fine to use 'that' to refer to people in defining relative clauses. I doubt that we have ever said differently, but if there is such a statement on our site then please let us know where you saw it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello!
Please explain me the difference between these two clause.

1) That's a song (which/that) reminds me of my youth.
2) He tore up the photograph, (which/but not that) upset me.

1. This is the song, the song reminds me of my youth. (I can put "that")
2. He tire up the photograph, the photograph upset me. (why can't I put "that" here?)

Hello JuliaJasm,

It looks to me as if you've understood the first sentence. 'that' or 'which' can be used as relative pronouns in 1 because they refer to the song. A song is an inanimate object, so you can use either relative pronoun with no change in meaning.

In 2, if you remove the comma after 'photograph', you could use 'that', but it means something different. If you say 'He tore up the photograph that upset me', it means that he took one photograph – the photograph that upset you – and he tore it up.

If you say 'He tore up the photograph, which upset me' (notice the comma is there, as it is in the exercise question), it means that he took the photograph and tore it up, but it wasn't the photograph that upset you – it was him tearing it up that upset you. The photograph was probably very important to you in this case. 'which' refers to a situation in this case, not the photograph. The comma is important in this kind of construction.

I hope that clarifies it for you, but if not, please don't hesitate to ask us again.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Sir I fell a little confused about using 'that' in a non defining relative clause because I know in a non defining relative clause we do not use 'that' but the explanation here says: 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'.
So that means we can use 'that' in a non defining relative clause when the preposition comes at the end of the sentence.
Could you please give me more information about that topic?
Thank you

Hello mohamedfathy,

We cannot use 'that' in non-defining relative clauses. Both of the examples you provide are defining relative clauses, not non-defining relative clauses.

It's important to note that whether or not particular information is defining or not can depend upon the perspective of the speaker. The same sentence can be seen as defining or non-defining, depending on the context and the speaker's intent, and on how the speaker sees the situation which he or she is describing.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Peter.
I understand know we can't use 'that' in a non defining relative clause So that means in this example:
'I had an uncle in Germany who I inherited a bit of money from' ( a defining relative clause) or
'I had an uncle in Germany that I inherited a bit of money from'.( a defining relative clause) that means may be I have more than one uncle and one of whom was in Germany and I inherited him
but in this example 'I had an uncle in Germany, from who I inherited a bit of money' ( a non defining relative clause) that means I have only one uncle and he was in Germany. Does that explanation right? could you please help me to make me sure about it? but by the way I tried to understand the different between this example 'We bought a chainsaw, with which we cut up all the wood' and this 'We bought a chainsaw that we cut all the wood up with' but I couldn't understand the difference? could you please tell where is the difference?
Thank you.

Hello mohamedfathy,

Defining relative clauses are used to identify the person or thing being described. This is generally, as you suggest, in order to distinguish them from other, similar, people or things. The direction of your thoughts is therefore correct and show that you understand the distinction - well done. Remember, however, that these things are very much dependent on context. It would be possible to speculate about in which contexts you might need to use which type of relative clause about the chainsaw in the same way that you did with the sentence about the uncle, but I'm not sure it is really helpful to try to invent contexts to fit random sentences. Language use works the other way: we have a need to express something and find the language for it.

I think it's clear you have a good grasp of the distinction between defining and non-defining relative clauses.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Peter

good evening dear teachers, i have still some doubts around two relative clauses.
1) the friend (whom ) i talked about attends the university;
2) there is something (which) you shouldn't worry about.
May i not mention whom and which? .

I 'm beginning to speak english nearly well with your help, i don't know how to thank you.
your willingness is fantastic.

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