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 krik,
Now I understand the difference between those two words.l, which is causing confusion there. Thanks for correcting me and the explanation. I have learned new things.

sir i have doubts please clear it.
1. They had four children, all of ............... went to university.
why there is 'whom' please tell me
2. He tore up the photograph, ............... upset me.
why there is only 'which' please guide me

Hello Afia shakir khan,

When we talk about people, we use 'who' or 'whom'. When we talk about things, we use 'which'. 'Children' are people, and so we use 'whom' here, and 'the photograph' is a thing, and so we use 'which'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

i know sir for subject 'who' and for object 'whom'
but in this sentence "they had four children, all of whom went to study. why can't we use 'who' here.
and 2nd sentence why can't we use 'that' instead of which.
please elaborate.

Hello Afia shakir khan,

'whom' is the object of the preposition 'of' – 'whom' is used after prepositions. 'that' is not correct in the second sentence because the relative pronoun refers to an action or idea (him tearing up the photo), not to the photo itself. When an idea or action is referred, to 'which' is used.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

thanks very much sir.

Hello sir,
I'm confused.when do we use who or whom?
Eg.The boy who ran past me was the chairman's son.v.s
The boy whom ran past me was the chairman's son.
Please do reply. I really don't understand!

Hello chiarencher,

'whom' can only be used when it refers to the object of a sentence – you can see examples above on this page. In the sentence you ask about, only the relative pronoun 'who' is correct because in that position, it refers to 'the boy', and 'the boy' is the subject of the verb 'ran'; there is no object.

If you changed the sentence a bit, you could use 'whom', e.g. 'The boy whom I spoke to was the chairman's son'. In this case, 'whom' refers to 'the boy', but 'the boy' is the object of 'I spoke to' so 'whom' can be used.

Very often we don't use 'whom', as it sounds a bit formal; instead you're more likely to hear 'The boy who I spoke to was the chairman's son'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello,
learn english team
when noun Preposition noun comes before a relative pronoun.
1: It is a collection of words which makes/make complete sense.
here antecedent will be collection or words and why?

Pages