1. The relative pronouns:

The relative pronouns are:
 

Subject  Object  Possessive
who whom, who whose
which which whose
that that  


We use who and whom for people, and which for things.
We use that for people or things.

We use relative pronouns to introduce relative clauses, which tell us more about people and things.

2. Relative clauses to postmodify a noun 

We use relative clauses to postmodify a noun - to make clear which person or thing we are talking about. In these clauses we can have the relative pronoun who, which, whose or that

  • as subject (see Clauses Sentences and Phrases)

Isn’t that the woman who lives across the road from you?
The police said the accident that happened last night was unavoidable
The newspaper reported that the tiger which killed its keeper has been put down.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the subject of the clause.
We do not repeat the subject:

*The woman who [she] lives across the road…
*The tiger which [it] killed its keeper …

  • as object of a clause (see Clauses, Sentences and Phrases)

Have you seen those people who we met on holiday?
You shouldn’t believe everything that you read in the newspaper.
The house that we rented in London was fully furnished.
The food was definitely the thing which I enjoyed most about our holiday.

- Sometimes we use whom instead of who when the relative pronoun is the object:

Have you seen those people whom we met on holiday?

- When the relative pronoun is object of its clause we sometimes leave it out:

Have you seen those people we met on holiday?
You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.
The house we rented in London was fully furnished.
The food was definitely the thing I enjoyed most about our holiday.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the object of the clause.
We do not repeat the object:

Have you seen those people who we met [them] on holiday?
The house that we rented [it] in London was fully furnished.
The food was definitely the thing I enjoyed [it] most about our holiday.

  • as object of a preposition. When the relative pronoun is the object of a preposition we usually put the preposition after the verb.:

You were talking to a woman >>> Who was the woman who you were talking to?
My parents live in that house >>> That’s the house that my parents live in.
You were talking about a book. I haven’t read it. >>> I haven’t read the book which you were talking about.

- When the relative pronoun is the object of a preposition we usually leave it out:

Who was the woman you were talking to?
That’s the house my parents live in.

- Sometimes we use whom instead of who:

Who was that woman whom you were talking about.

- When we use whom, which or whose the preposition sometimes comes at the beginning of the clause:

I haven’t read the book about which you were talking.

- We can use the possessive form, whose, in a relative clause:

I always forget that woman’s name >>> That’s the woman whose name I always forget.
I met a man whose brother works in Moscow.

3. Times and places

We also 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 1996. 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.

... but we can leave out the word when:

England won the world cup in 1996. It was the year we got married.
I remember my twentieth birthday. It was the day the tsunami happened.

4. Giving additional information

 We use who, whom, whose, and which (but not that) in relative clauses to tell us more about a person or thing.

  • as subject (see Clauses, Sentences and Phrases)

My uncle, who was born in Hong Kong, lived most of his life overseas.
I have just read Orwell’s 1984, which is one of the most frightening books ever written.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the subject of the clause.
We do not repeat the subject:

My uncle, who [he] was born in Hong Kong, lived most of his life overseas.
I have just read Orwell’s 1984, which [it] is one of the most frightening books ever written.

  • as object (see Clauses, Sentences and Phrases)

We saw the latest Harry Potter film, which we really enjoyed.
My favourite actor is Marlon Brando, who I saw in “On the Waterfront”.

- we can use whom instead of who as object:

My favourite actor was Marlon Brando, whom I saw in “On the Waterfront”.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the object of the clause.
We do not repeat the object:

We saw the latest Harry Potter film, which we really enjoyed [it].
My favourite actor is Marlon Brando, who I saw [him] in “On the Waterfront”.

  • as object of a clause :

He finally met Paul McCartney, whom he had always admired.
We are going back to Venice, which we first visited thirty years ago.

We can also use who as the object.

He finally met Paul McCartney, who he had always admired.

WARNING:
The relative pronoun is the object of the clause.
We do not repeat the object:

He finally met Paul McCartney, whom he had always admired [him].
We are going back to Venice, which we first visited [it] thirty years ago.

  • as object of a preposition:

He decided to telephone Mrs. Jackson, who he had read about in the newspaper.
That’s the programme which we listened to last night.

- We sometimes use whom instead of who:

He decided to telephone Mrs. Jackson, whom he had read about in the newspaper.

- The preposition sometimes comes in front of the relative pronoun whom or which:

He decided to telephone Mrs. Jackson, about whom he had read in the newspaper.
That’s the programme to which we listened last night.

5.  Quantifiers and numbers with relative pronouns

 We often use quantifiers and numbers with relative pronouns:

many of whom - most of whom - one of which - none of whom
some of which - lots of whom - two of which - etc.

We can use them as subject, object or object of a preposition.

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.

6. Using  "which" to give more information

We often use the relative pronoun which to say something about a clause:

He was usually late, which always annoyed his father.
We’ve missed our train, which means we may be late.

 

Rearrange the parts to make sentences.

Match the sentence halves.

Comments

hello,

please help me about this, what is the difference between a relative phrase and relative clause ? i have a presentation coming up titled "relative phrase and clause" and having a hard time searching for relative phrase note. i saw your note of (see clauses sentence and phrase) what does this mean if i may ask? If there any big difference between relative phrase and relative clause or is it just the same? any help from you will be very much appreciated.

can you check if what i come up with is correct :

relative phrase
1. the bewildered tourist who was lost
2. she who was upset when it didn't boil
3. a cheetah, which is the fastest land animal, can run 70miles an hour.
4. taking my dog, who love me a lot, for a walk is fun
5. before which test?
6. this is whose hat?

relative clause
1. The girl whom you saw yesterday is my sister
2. The man who left yesterday told me to come back today
3. The park that is next to our school is beautiful

thank you in advance. :)

Hello Nasuha281,

I'm not familiar with the term 'relative phrase'. All of your examples are relative clauses: subordinate clauses which modify nouns.

I would imagine that your presentation should focus on the two main types of relative clause (defining and non-defining), and on when the relative pronoun can be omitted in defining relative clauses.

You have one mistake in your examples. The fourth sentence should have the third-person form loves rather than love.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Please tell me both these sentences are correct or not. If one is correct then which one.
The sentences are: I will show them the interesting places.
I will show them interesting places.
With or without the definite article.
Thank you
Regards
Lal

Hi Lal,

They are both grammatically correct -- well done! The interesting places in the first one are places that you have already discussed with the person you are speaking to, whereas in the second one you haven't mentioned them yet.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Re: relative clauses
Please let me know which is correct ' a shirt or the shirt in the sentence

The man who sold me a/ the nice shirt is very friendly.
Thank you.
Lal

Hi Lal,

Assuming that the topic of the nice shirt has already come up, 'the' would be the best form.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

are the following sentence contractions possible?

1. A lady who called you yesterday has come to see you.

2. Information that I got on TV is quite reliable.

3. A taxi that is waiting at the entrance is for you.

Could you tell me all three subjects at beginning (a lady, information, a taxi) must be modified by definite article, "the" ?

I'm a little confused. If "lady" in the first construction is a lady whom the hearer haven't met her before, it should be "a lady"?
In the same vein, if "taxi" is one general taxi, it could be said as "A taxi," I thought.

Is this assumption grammatically or pragmatically unacceptable?

Hello mininice,

All three sentences could begin with 'The' instead of 'A' or no article, but, as you suggest, the meaning would be slightly different. It's difficult to explain how the articles in these sentences work without knowing the context these sentences occur in -- there are many possiblities and I just can't explain or even imagine them all -- but I will explain a couple and hope that this helps you. Please don't hesitate to write back with further questions if you have them, but it would be helpful if you explained the context for any sentences you ask about.

Using 'a' in 1 and 3 or no article in 2 implies that the subject of each sentence has not been mentioned. In 1, for example, it's not that the speaker or listener haven't met the lady, it's that the whole topic of this lady has never been mentioned before. I imagine, for example, a situation like this: the manager of a company (a woman) arrives in the office after a business trip. The day before, a woman who refused to leave her name had come to see the manager and the manager's secretary (a man) said he would tell the manager about her visit when she (the manager) returned. Now the secretary says sentence 1 to the manager. The secretary uses 'a' because the manager had no idea that a woman had come to visit her -- this is the first time he has spoken with her for several days and the woman's visit was unexpected.

3 is a little unusual though not incorrect. If the topic of a taxi waiting for me at the entrance had already come up, then it would be better to say 'The taxi' or 'One of the taxis'. If the topic of the taxi was new, then it would be more common to say 'There is a taxi' or 'One of the taxis'. Your sentence is possible, however.

I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,
Good day. I have some confusion regarding this lesson.

Under the section 4 titled, "Giving additional information".
Subsection "as object" has an example
"We saw the latest Harry Potter film, which we really enjoyed."

and next subsection "as object of a clause" has
"He finally met Paul McCartney, whom he had always admired."

How are they different?

And in this sentence
"Is there something I said which annoys you?"
Are there two relative clauses? 1. something that I said..., 2. which annoys you.
If there are what kind of sentence structure is this?

Regards
Sajad

Hello SajadKhan,

Thank you for asking about this. There is no real difference here and I'm sorry that the page seems to suggest otherwise. We are looking into how to make it more clear and will edit it soon.

As for your second question, yes, there are two relative clauses in the sentence. Relative clauses can be 'nested' within one another. In theory, there is no limit to the number of clauses you can nest within one another, but of course the more you add, the more confusing the sentence can get.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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