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

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.

Hello shivamgetz,

'which' can be used in both defining and non-defining relative clauses, whereas 'that' is used only in defining relative clauses. All three of the sentences you ask about have defining relative clauses, so you could indeed use 'which' instead (though note there should be no comma in the first sentence).

'which' can be used to refer to both singular and plural antecedents. I'm not sure if that's what you were asking -- if not, please give an example of what you mean.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter

"My father likes Elliot's essays who was a masterpiece critic and reputed grammarian of English."

Is the sentence correct?

Thanks

Hello Akash,

No, I'm afraid it is not. The antecedent of 'who' cannot be 'essays', which is what the grammar of the sentence indicates. You could perhaps say something like 'My father likes Elliot's essays because he was a master critic and reputed grammarian'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

HI)) Can we say "The Mona Lisa which painted by the Leonardo Da Vinci is in Louvre" ?

Hello Lutfullo,

That sentence is not quite correct. There are two ways to say this:

The Mona Lisa, which was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, is in Louvre.

The Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, is in Louvre.

You need to include the commas.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages