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

in the fourth question i can't understand why the answer in "which but not that " could you explain this for me please ?

Hi omarmohamed99,

'which' is correct because it refers to the entire phrase before the comma. 'that' isn't used to refer to a situation or action in this way.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teachers,

I have a question for you. I wrote this sentence in an essay:

Tyrion Lannister is one of the characters of a Song of Ice and Fire who belong to the category of "cripples and bastards and broken things".

I was corrected by someone who speaks a better English than me, but now I'm confused. She said that I should have written "belongs" instead of "belong", and that "who" is always used with the third person.
I had used a plural word because the verb refers to a group of people.
Could you help me to better understand?

Thanks in advance!

Hello Lady Olenna,

Both forms are possible, with a small shift in meaning.

 

Tyrion Lannister is one of the characters of a Song of Ice and Fire who belongs to the category of "cripples and bastards and broken things".

 

 

The singular verb here tells us that it is Tyrion who belongs to this group: he is one of the characters of the book and he belongs to this category.

 

Tyrion Lannister is one of the characters of a Song of Ice and Fire who belong to the category of "cripples and bastards and broken things".

 

The plural verb here tells us that there are many characters who are in this category and Tyrion is one of them: there are a number of characters who belong to this category and Tyrion is one of them.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter!

Dear Sir
Please help me to clarify this.
When using relative pronouns for animals which is the correct? For e.g.The puppy
which I bought is very cute. or The puppy that I bought is very cute. or The puppy
who/whom I bought is very cute.
Are all these correct or only the first and the second?
Please let me know.
Regards

Hello Andrew international,

For animals we use which or that, not who.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

He tore up the photograph, ............... upset me......( I do not understand why my answer with 'which or that' is wrong ?)

'which' (but not 'that')
'which' or 'that'
----------------------------
They had four children, all of ............... went to university. ( my answer is ' who or that', what is wrong at my answer)

'who' or 'that'
'whom'

-----------------------------
She wrote a best-selling book, the name of ............... I've completely forgotten.....(what's wrong with my answer for 'which or that'

'which' (but not 'that')
'which' or 'that'

Hi mitykg,

It appears that part of the explanation is missing from this page, which of course makes it more difficult to do the exercise correctly. I'm sorry about that and will look into fixing it.

In the meantime, I'll explain these for you. In the first one, only 'which' is correct because 'which' is used to refer to a situation or action -- here it refers to the man's tearing up of the photograph.

In the second one, only 'whom' is correct because it refers to people and because the relative pronoun in the object of the pronoun 'of'.

The third one is similar to the second one, except that the relative pronoun refers to a thing (a book). The relative pronoun is the object of the preposition 'of' and so only 'which' is correct, because only 'which' and 'whom' are used as objects of prepositions.

I hope this clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Can I grammatically interchange "that" with "which" in the following sentences:
This is the only pen, THAT i bought yesterday.
My father has given me everything THAT I needed.
This is the same man THAT deceived me.
Is there any limitations of "which" with regard to numbers in the plural case.

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