Level: beginner

The relative pronouns are:

Subject Object Possessive
who who/whom whose
which which whose
that that -

We use relative pronouns to introduce relative clauses. Relative clauses tell us more about people and things:

Lord Thompson, who is 76, has just retired.
This is the house which Jack built.
Marie Curie is the woman that discovered radium.

We use:

  • who and whom for people
  • which for things
  • that for people or things.

Two kinds of relative clause

There are two kinds of relative clause:

1.  We use relative clauses to make clear which person or thing we are talking about:

Marie Curie is the woman who discovered radium.
This is the house which Jack built.

In this kind of relative clause, we can use that instead of who or which:

Marie Curie is the woman that discovered radium.
This is the house that Jack built.

We can leave out the pronoun if it is the object of the relative clause:

This is the house that Jack built. (that is the object of built)

Relative pronouns 1

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Relative pronouns 2

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Be careful!

The relative pronoun is the subject/object of the relative clause, so we do not repeat the subject/object:

Marie Curie is the woman who she discovered radium.
(who is the subject of discovered, so we don't need she)

This is the house that Jack built it.
(that is the object of built, so we don't need it)

2.  We also use relative clauses to give more information about a person, thing or situation:

Lord Thompson, who is 76, has just retired.
We had fish and chips, which I always enjoy.
I met Rebecca in town yesterday, which was a nice surprise.

With this kind of relative clause, we use commas (,) to separate it from the rest of the sentence.

Be careful!

In this kind of relative clause, we cannot use that:

Lord Thompson, who is 76, has just retired.
(NOT Lord Thompson, that is 76, has just retired.)

and we cannot leave out the pronoun:

We had fish and chips, which I always enjoy.
(NOT We had fish and chips, I always enjoy.)

Relative pronouns 3

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Relative pronouns 4

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Level: intermediate

whose and whom

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.
(whom is the object of met)

This is George’s brother, with whom I went to school.
(whom is the object of with)

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.

Relative pronouns 5

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Relative pronouns with prepositions

When who(m) 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.

But when that has a preposition, the preposition always comes at the end:

I didn't know the uncle that I inherited the money from.
We can't find the chainsaw that we cut all the wood up with.

Relative pronouns 6

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when and where

We can use when with times and where with places to make it clear which time or place we are talking about:

England won the World Cup in 1966. It was the year when we got married.
I remember my twentieth birthday. It was the day when the tsunami happened.

Do you remember the place where we caught the train?
Stratford-upon-Avon is the town where Shakespeare was born.

We can leave out when:

England won the World Cup in 1966. It was the year we got married.
I remember my twentieth birthday. It was the day the tsunami happened.

We often use quantifiers and numbers with relative pronouns: 

all of which/whom most of which/whom many of which/whom
lots of which/whom a few of which/whom none of which/whom
one of which/whom two of which/whom etc.

She has three brothers, two of whom are in the army.
I read three books last week, one of which I really enjoyed.
There were some good programmes on the radio, none of which I listened to.

 

Comments

Hello teacher,

I understand that the sentence in English consist of Noun phrase and verb phrase.

The sentence which I was reading here , makes some problem in understanding to me.

The sentence is:

The house that Jack built.

The house................ ( the house is Noun phrase ( It's OK )

But the rest of the sentence is difficult to understand it.
Which part of speech?
And where is the verb phrase?

Hi sdgnour2014,

"The house that Jack built" is not a complete sentence in English, precisely because it lacks a verb phrase. Actually, all of that phrase is a complex noun phrase composed of "the house" plus the relative clause "that Jack built". "built" is a verb, but since it is part of the relative clause "that Jack built", which is itself part of the entire noun phrase, it doesn't count as a verb.

As for what it means, this phrase refers to a house. The house was built by a person. That person is Jack.

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello teacher, I think about two things about the sentence and I want you to correct me.

1- The house that Jack built: Can I say Jack is the subject of the relative clause? Can I remove the relative and say: The house Jack built is far away from here.

2- I know that we sometimes can remove the relative in English , but I forget the rule can you give me examples please?

Hello,

I like to know about the examples which were mentioned above by Ravi.
I like to know about the examples which Ravi mentioned above.

Are these two sentences grammatically correct?

Thank you.

Hi bimsara,

In both sentences, "I like" should be changed to "I would like", but otherwise they are both correct.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, is this sentence AND the use of whose is correct?

1- This is to certify that, Mr John , whose working/worked in this company in the period between 10/5/2012 to 10/10/2014 is a good behavior and devotion in his work.

Hello sdgnour2014,

No, it is not correct.  You need to use 'who worked'.  The sentence should also say 'showed good behaviour and devotion to his work', and the comma after 'that' is unnecessary.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

When having a sentence like; "But, in which health experts call an ominous portent, progress has stalled in 2004 and in recent years the death rate has risen in Mississippi and several other states" - where you know the which whould be replaced with the Word what.... How do you explain that? I mean, grammatically correct?

Hello EMM92,

The correct word here is indeed 'what'.  You can think of two variations here:

'But, in a situation which health experts call...'

'But, in what health experts call...'

'What' here is replacing a noun ('the situation') which is required for the sentence to make sense.  It is tempting to see this as a relative clause with a relative pronoun 'which' referring to 'progress...', but in fact the reference here is to 'situation', and without this no relative clause is possible; instead we must use 'what'.

It is similar to these simpler examples:

'In the sentence which I said...'

'In what I said...'

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

SIR,
Could you please , clarify me what is difference in have and had words and would and could ,with some examples.

Thanks
Manmeet

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