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,what the difference between who and whom

Hello kacem,

'Whom' is the object form of 'who'. It is quite unusual in modern English and can sound quite old-fashioned. Most people use 'who' for all forms except when the word follows a preposition such as to, for, with and so on. In these cases 'whom' is still quite common.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.
what has been the adjective clause before reduction to adjective phrase?
The driver, not realizing that the traffic light has been red, crossed the street.

Hello amirfd,

We're happy to help you with this, but we generally ask that you tell us what you think the answer is. This sentence is a little bit awkward, but I imagine it was something like 'The driver, who didn't realize that the light was red, crossed the street.'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,

''He found out that he has been there''

We do not use a relative pronoun ''that'' after prepositions, but I do not understand why we use it after a phrasal verb. Is it because it is a unit? If so, why do we not use the pronoun after a dependent preposition even tough the dependent preposition is a part of the unit too; for example, ''He apologized for that he was late''

Thank you in advance

Hello JakiGeh,

'that' is not a relative pronoun in this sentence -- it is a conjunction that links the verb before to it to the clause after it. In any case, the word 'out' in 'found out', as part of a phrasal verb, is not really a preposition but rather an adverb particle, so the rules for prepositions don't really apply.

When 'apologize' has a direct object, we use the preposition 'for' between it and the direct object. This is simply the pattern we use with 'for', i.e. it's just the way people have come to use the verb 'apologize'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,

Did you mean in the sentence: ''He apologized that ...'' ''that'' is a conjunction? If so, if it is a conjunction, we could put the clause in the beginning: ''That ..., he apologized''.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Thank you once again.

Hello JakiGeh,

Sorry for the confusion. I was speaking about 'that' in 'he found out that ...', though there are also many other instances of this pattern (e.g. 'she thought that it wasn't going to rain', 'we admitted that they were right').

'apologize for that ...' with 'that' as a conjunction (e.g. 'he apologized for that he had shouted' is not grammatical in English. Rather, as you suggested, we use a gerund after the preposition: 'he apologized for having shouted (or 'shouting'). Beginning the sentence with a 'that' clause is also not grammatical.

In many ways, Spanish and English have similar grammar, but this is one area in which they differ. English isn't as systematic as Spanish with this kind of structure -- what structure you need to use is determined by the verb. Our verbs with -ing forms, verbs with to + infinitive and reporting verbs with that pages, as well as this page gives a good list of verbs and the patterns used after them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.
The package contains books and records --------- to the library recently.
a.delivered
b.has been delivered
I have problem in difference between adjective phrase and passive voice.

Hello amirfd,

For one thing, b) cannot be correct because the auxiliary verb 'has' is used with singular subjects. In this phrase, the subject is 'books and records', which is plural. a) is a reduced relative clause -- in other words, it is 'that (or 'which') have been delivered' reduced to just the form 'delivered'. See this relative clauses page for more information on this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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