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

Hi. I'm Sophia. First, thank you for making useful website.

 

By the way, I have a question about exercise 6. I understand that the answer is "which", but I think "that" is possible, too. Because "the name of~" is a relative clauses, but its subject is not "the name of which / that" but "I". So I chose b.

 

Could you tell me why the correct answer is not a but b? :-) Thank you. :-)

Hi Sophia and Jassie,
A is indeed the correct answer and you can't use 'that' in the sentence in exercise 6.
I'm not 100% sure, but I believe the reason is that different rules apply when the relative pronoun has a possessive function. In that situation, you can use 'whose', 'of whom', 'of which' etc., depending on whether you're referring to a person or an object or concept.
So you can say 'She has a brother, the name of whom I've forgotten' or 'whose name I've forgotten'. You can't say '...the name of that I've forgotten' or 'the name of who I've forgotten'.
As I said, I need to think about this a little more to be sure I'm correct, but if I realise I made a mistake, I'll come back and correct this answer!
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team
 

Hi, Adam!
 
Thanks for your reply. I can understand now why I can't use 'that' in that sentence! :-)

Hi Sophia! I've thought of that too. However, I am too lazy to analyze sentences. I guess that is the reason why I'm still having problems with English even though I've been studying it for 20 years (by the way, I'm 21.) haha! So, I usually depend on how the sentence would sound, and I think having "that" in that sentence doesn't really sound good.
Anyway, to make this comment a little helpful, I think it might be because we can only use "that" at the beginning of the clause. Maybe we would have to change the position of some words so that we use "that." :)

Hi, Jessie!
I think it's very useful to depend on the sound of sentence. :-) Thanks for the reply!

Hi

Im new to this forum. For beginners any suggestions...

Hi Arunradphy

Have a good look around and see what there is first. I think that you should look for activities that you like and that suit you.

Have a look at the Elementary Podcasts under Listen and Watch - there are 2 seasons waiting for you. Some new content from Tess and Ravi is in the pipeline.

There's loads to do here so just browse around and read some of the comments from other learners.

Good Luck!

Jack

The LearnEnglish Team

hello everybody ^_^

need help ?!

I couldn't find the exercise??????

why???

Kind Regards

Hello,

We had some problems with the exercises earlier today, but they're fixed now. Please let us know if you still can't see them.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Adam,

Still Have Problem On Exercieses

Thanks

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