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.




I found here "When whom or which have a preposition". I wasn't sure why did you use "have" and google for an answer. I found this:
With a compound subject, the general rule is: If it uses "and", then clearly it's plural, so you should use a plural verb. If it uses "or", then the number of the verb should match the number of the LAST item in the list.
For example:
Either Bob or Fred has the answer.
Either Bob or the Thompson twins have the answer.
Either the Thompson twins or Bob has the answer.

But it doesn't suit still. Can you please explain me the use of "to have" in those "or" situations?

Thanks in advance!


Hi again,

I'm working through all you material because I am rusty on my grammar and busy with third year linguistics course through the University of South Africa, a distance university in this country.

Is the following not what we cal a split infinitive?:

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.

I always try to write 'from whom' rather than 'who I inherited from'.

Thanks again, blessings.

Hello John Murray,

A split infinitive is where the 'to' and the base form of the verb are separated. For example:

I like to slowly walk through the woods.

This is not an error in English, and is a perfectly correct form. Some prescriptive grammarians during the neo-classical period of English literature attempted to introduce such a rule, but this was never a part of traditional English grammar.

What your examples show is what is sometimes called a hanging preposition. This is also an entirely artificial rule of English grammar; there is nothing wrong with a so-called hanging preposition. If we attempt to avoid using this form then we end up with highly unnatural sentences.

Churchill, supposedly, denounced this rule by saying 'This is the sort of English up with which I will not put' - demonstrating the kind of absurd sentence to which this kind of rule leads.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

That's a song ............... reminds me of my youth.
isn't this a relative clause?
plse explain

Dear teachers,

Why in the question #4, it's not allowed to use " which or that"? While for my little thinking it seems like both can work. Kindly assist and explain for me.

Best regrds,

Hello Patrickus,

Only 'which' (and not 'that') is possible here because it introduces a non-restrictive relative clause (adding extra information); in such relative clauses 'that' cannot be used.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everybody..thank u very much for this great program..
I have a question ..when we can use that instead of which and when we can't?

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.