You are here

Relative pronouns and relative clauses

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTU4ODQ=

Relative pronouns 2

GapFillTyping_MTU4ODY=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTU4OTE=

Relative pronouns 4

GapFillTyping_MTU4OTI=

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

MultipleSelection_MTU4OTM=

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

GapFillTyping_MTU4OTQ=

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

Thank you for your prompt reply. What I am saying is that in none of the four spaces provided is it possible to use a relative pronoun. Could you just confirm that,if possible,please. Again,thanks for your reply. Cheers.

Hello falkenberg 2666,

As far as I can see, it is not.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello falkenberg 2666,

I think this is a question better addressed to your local English teacher - our role here is to help our users with the materials on this site, not materials from other lessons or other sources.  However, briefly, I would answer as follows:

1) when/as

2) who/which ['which' can be used in certain contexts to refer to people]

3) whom

4) so/because

To use 'why' in the last gap you would need to use the phrase 'which was why'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

when do we use whom?

Hello cedriclegneks,

'Whom' is the object form of 'who' but it is relatively rarely used in modern English and can sound quite old-fashioned.  For example, we can say:

Who did you give it to?          or          To whom did you give it?

You spoke to who?          or          You spoke to whom?

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

I have a question. I was viewing the sentence:

This is George’s brother, with whom I went to school.

But, I'm really confused. I don't know why it isn't:

This is George’s brother, with whom I went to the school.

Is it a incorrect sentence?

Thanks

When we speak of certain places as regards their function(what the place was meant for) we do not use the definite article "the". For example. school= a place where we go to to learn(some anyway) prison= a place where criminals are sent,hospital=a place where people who have severe illnesses go. So, we say, The man(a criminal) was sent to prison. But, we say: The son(not criminal; we hope) went to the prison to visit his dad. Or, Ann´s father( as a patient) was sent to hospital because he had to have an operation. But, Ann(as a visit) went to the hospital to visit him. There are,as usual,exceptions(this is English) For example, They went to the cinema last night.

Hello wilson2103,

I'll be happy to answer the question, but I'd like to request something first.  Your question, and the answer to it, will be useful to other users but they are unlikely to find this information on this page, which is about relative pronouns.  Could you post the question again, on a page related to articles?  That way it will be easier for others to find it and make use of it.

Best wishes and thank you in advance,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi;
Now I read the comments of Mr.Peter dated 22 Dec. 2013 on How long page I don`t now if you will consider me as  'intermediate' learner, but I know that i have to try doing the free test of IELTS but every time I said to myself I have to finish the grammars section first but really it`s hard to finish it.so what you advice me to do?
 
Best Wishes
 
Safaa

Hi Safaa,

It's not necessary to finish any section here before you move on to something else.  You should consider what you need, what your strengths and weaknesses are and what will be most helpful for you.  Use the grammar section as a buffet: if you have problems with a particular area, or would like to revise it, then go to that area and work on it, but don't feel that it's necessary to complete all grammar exercises before you try something else.  Try one of the free IELTS tests on the British Council's Take IELTS pages to see what your level is and what aspects of English you need to practise; then you can come back to the reference and practice materials here to work on those areas.

I hope that is helpful for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages