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

Hi, my name is irma from Indonesia. First, I want to thanks to british council for the website which is very usefull for us. Then I want to ask about the different using who and whom, when we could use whom better than who.
Thank you.

Hi Irma

Whom sounds a bit old-fashioned now so we don't use it very much. The only time we use it, is with prepositions. If an unknown or unnamed  person is the object of a preposition, we use the relative pronoun whom. A common example:

To whom it may concern (used at the start of an open letter).

In the past, people thought it was bad grammar to end a sentence with a preposition so the question "Who did you go with?" would have been wrong and people would have asked: "With whom did you go?" - Here, the relative pronoun is the object of the preposition so we use whom. We aren't as fussy these days about ending a sentence with a preposition so we rarely use whom.

I hope that helps. If it's not clear, let me know and I'll try to explain it better.

Thanks

Jack

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Thank you Jack, its really helpfull. I'm starting really enjoying the lesson.

Hie
I don't understand the difference between (which or that) and which

Hello,
What part of the explanation above isn't clear?
You might want to also read our page on relative clauses.
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello from Kazakhstan!

I want to ask
    when can we use which but not that??

So, I just thought of this. This is also about the Question number 6 (under relative pronouns.) Can you tell me if this sentence makes sense?
"She wrote a best-selling book, that I've completely forgotten the name of."
 

Hello Jassie,
That's a perfect sentence!
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi. I'm Sophia. First, thank you for making useful website.

 

By the way, I have a question about exercise 6. I understand that the answer is "which", but I think "that" is possible, too. Because "the name of~" is a relative clauses, but its subject is not "the name of which / that" but "I". So I chose b.

 

Could you tell me why the correct answer is not a but b? :-) Thank you. :-)

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