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 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

Is the usage of "who" and "whom" correct in these sentences. "She's the one who played the piano at the event." And "George, who is a funny man, died yesterday." This is Clara, whom I went to school with." "They are the ones who won the championship."

Hello Timmosky,

Yes, all of them are correct, though please note that 'whom' is quite uncommon in speaking nowadays. Most of the time, most people would use 'who' in your third sentence instead of 'whom'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

(Bob is speaking) ''... and I am completely powerless to the whims of the new building owner.'' (Bob is the building owner.)

(and then is interrupted by John) ''Which is you.''

Why is there ''Which'' used it refers to things and animals, but not people? Shouldn't it be who?

Thank you in advance.

Hello JamlMakav,

It's great that you noticed this. In this case, 'which' isn't so much a relative pronoun as a kind of connecting word. Both 'who' and 'which' are sometimes used in this way to connect ideas or clauses.

A test you can use to determine if this is appropriate is to see if you can replace 'which' with 'and this'. If it makes sense, as in the example you ask about ('And this is you' has the same meaning), then 'which' is being used as a connector.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. We can also use 'Where' 'When' and 'Why' right? How to use 'why'? Please help me. Huhu Lol
Thank you.

Hello Saaandra,

You can find a good summary of when these are used, with examples to illustrate, on this page. You can also read more about relative clauses herehere and here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
Why ‘who’ is used instead of ‘that’ in the following sentence?
Can I omit the comma before their relative pronoun ‘who’?

Americans eat 50% more protein and fat than Japanese, who get more of their calories from fruit and vegetables.

Many thanks

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