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

Hi peter,
first of all thank you,your second post made me understand the difference between that two sentences.
I like people working hard.
this means people sometimes work hard not all the time.right?

Hi Peter M! I still don't understand the second sentence.when we talk about an action, we use gerund.here 'crying' is a participle which specifies 'boy'.if we use adjective clause, the sentence would be:
people do not like the boy who cries.

Hi neha_sri,

The forms in these sentences are not gerunds: a gerund is a noun formed from a verb, and neither sentence is an example of that. I think the terminology here is not particularly helpful to you, and I would suggest that you focus on on the meaning rather than the names of the forms.

As I said in the previous answer, the two original sentences have different meanings and they are as I described: one talks about a boy crying now (at the moment of speaking); the other talks about a boy who cries sometimes and about the negative reaction when he does so.

Your sentence here has another - third - meaning:

People do not like the boy who cries - this tells us that there are various boys and that the unpopular boy is the one who cries (unlike the other boys, who do not cry). It is an example of a defining relative clause, telling us which boy is being referred to.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you. Each sentence is correct, but each has a different meaning.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi!
I am studing english in british council ,new delhi.I asked a question to my teacher and she could not answer it.
my query is, what is the difference between the two below sentences?
people do not like crying boy.
people do not like boy crying.

Here in the second sentence crying is participle.
Thanks!

Hi neha_sri,

There is a slight difference in meaning here.

People do not like the crying boy. - here, 'crying' is an adjective and describes the boy; the sentence means something like 'People do not like the boy who is crying'. [i.e. he is crying now]

People do not like the boy crying. - here, the meaning is different; the sentence means something like 'People do not like it when the boy cries'. [i.e. he does not cry all the time, but when he does people do not like it]

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

good morning!!!
i get a trouble in using relative pronoun "that". i wonder whether "that" can replace for "where and when, what which, whom" or only replace for "who, whom, which". Please help me to understand it more. Many thanks to you!!!

Hello asian games,

We can use 'that' in defining relative clauses, but not in non-defining relative clauses.

'That' can replace 'who' (for peope) or 'which' (for things). It cannot replace 'whose' (possessive).

'When' and 'where' are not relative pronouns; they are relative adverbs. 'That' cannot replace them directly, but can be used with a preposition:

This is the house where I lived as a child.

This is the house that [which] I lived in as a child.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

oh I see. Thank you so much.
one more problem
about Cleft sentence, i can use "where or when" to replace for "that" if i want to emphasize adverb phrase
Example 1:
It was at the shop that she bought him a present. (1)
It was at the shop where she bought him present. (2)
Example 2:
It was at 8.00 a.m that the meeting started. (1)
It was at 8.00 a.m when the meeting started. (2)
Please show me number 1 or number 2 is correct.
Thank you in advance!!!

Hello asian games,

In 1, the preposition 'in' is needed at the end of the sentence. In 2, the word 'present' needs an article before it. 3 and 4 are correct, though 3 is more common.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I'm learning something new... :) more power to your team!

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