relative pronouns

 

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

Comments

Hello British Council,
I've a confusion that is from exercise question no. 4.
He tore up the photograph, * upset me.
and the answer is "which", but why I can't use "that". Please clarify.

Hello Narendra Nishadraj,

This is an example of a non-defining relative clause, which tells us more about a person or thing but does not define which person or thing we are talking about. The rule is one the page:

• 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.

 

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Q1
he is the man who I know has helped my son in the final exam.
he is the man who I knew has helped my son in the final exam.
he is the man who I have known has helped my son in the final exam.
ARE these sentences grammatically correct? If yes, what is the difference in the contexts in which these should be used or they can be used interchangeably.
Q2 SIR,
in English language a sentence with same grammatical structure can be used for different meanings in different contexts?? Is it true?? If yes why is it so?? is it same like a word is used for different meanings??

Hello innocentashish420,

I have answered this question already on this page. Please do not post the same question more than once - it only slows the process of answering down and makes the site less useful to others.

In answer to your second question, meaning is often context-dependent, but this is not only a feature of English. Any language which has idiomatic, metaphorical and ironic meaning (to my knowledge, this means all languages) has context-dependent meaning. It may be more prevalent in English than in your language, of course.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglsh Team

Hello Dear Teachers,
I'm an EFL student. I have a question. In the following Questions and answers, which answer is correct?(a or b). Is the other one incorrect or less appropriate?
1. Who is she?
a. She's Sally. (Telling her name)
b. She's my cousin.(Telling her function)
2. Who are you?
a. I'm Tom.
b. I'm your friend.
3. Who are you?
a. We are Ben and Bob.
b. We are your classmates.
Thanks in advance.

Hello Jilibili,

We don't generally like to do users' homework – if that's what this is – we ourselves are teachers, after all! In any case, both answers could be correct for all of these questions – it really depends on what you mean and what the context is.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot for your quick answer. Does it look like homework?? It was just a simple doubt.

Hello teachers,

I am confused of using comma between relative pronouns and subjects, objects of the sentences. I found that there is a comma in some sentences but not in others. I would like to know clearly.

Thanks and Regards,
Aye

Hello Aye,

We use commas in non-defining relative clauses but not in defining relative clauses.

You can find more information on each of these herehere and here.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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