Note: Where there is a choice of pronoun, the underlined one is the most commonly used.
Subject Object Possessive
Forpeople who/that no QrQnoun/who/that whose
Forthings that/which no QronQun/thatjwhich -
57 Defining relative clauses
Look at this sentence:
The family who live next door moved here from Ireland.
There is a main clause: The family ... moved here from Ireland and there is a
relative clause: who live next door.
The main clause does not make proper sense without the relative clause.
The relative clause tells us which family we are talking about. It is a defining
The relative clause may come in the middle or at the end of a sentence. It
follows the word that it defines.
• Subject relative pronouns:
Are you the person who telephoned here an hour ago?
The relative pronoun who functions as the subject of the verb telephoned.
Can you pick up the knife that/which has just fallen off the table?
The relative pronoun that/which functions as the subject of the verb has
fallen off. That is used more often than which. Which is more formal or
• Object relative pronouns:
That's the woman who/that I met at Tony's house.
Who or that functions as the object of the verb met.
Is this the book that/which you were reading last night?
That or which functions as the object of the verb were reading.
In defining relative clauses, the object relative pronoun (who/that/which) is
That's the woman I met at Tony's house.
Is this the book you were reading last night?
• Relative pronouns: object of a preposition:
This is the beach (that/which) I was telling you about.
That or which functions as the object of the preposition about. It can be
• Possessive relative pronoun:
They are the workers whose jobs are being cut.
Whose is a possessive relative pronoun. It refers to the workers. It is the
workers' jobs that are being cut. Whose jobs functions as the subject of the
verb are being cut.
I couldn't find the man whose case I'd taken by mistake.
Whose refers to the man. It was his case I'd taken. Whose case functions as
the object of the verb had taken.
• Summary: relative pronouns in defining relative clauses:
51b Join the two sentences together, making the second sentence a defining
relative clause. Use the relative pronoun that is most commonly used or no
pronoun at all where this is possible.
1 She's the one. I told you about her.
She's the one I told you about.
51a Underline the ten defining relative clauses in the dialogue. Then circle the
relative pronoun in each one and indicate whether it is a subject (S) or
object (0) pronoun.
Holt and Watkins, private detectives, are discussing a murder.
W: So who was the one 8killed Mr Makepeace? (S)
H: Can't you guess?
W: Well, I think it was probably the woman who was staying in the room next
door to him.
H: No, Watkins, of course it wasn't. She only wanted the money he owed her.
She won't get that now that he's dead.
W: Oh yes, I hadn't thought about that. So was it Mr Grant, the man who
always shared their table in the evenings?
H: No, Watkins. It's true that he loved Mrs Makepeace but he knew that she
didn't love him. And he probably believed that she could never fall in love
with a man who had murdered her husband.
W: I suppose that's true. So who was it then? The son? Do you think that he
wanted to have the money that would be due to him from his father's life
H: Well no, because he knew that the insurance policy would be invalid if his
father died suspiciously. And apart from that, I think that in a way he loved
his father. The one he hates is Mr Bottomley, the man his mother is in love
W: So who did kill Mr Makepeace?
H: Well, I feel quite sure now that it was Mrs Makepeace.
W: Mrs Makepeace!
H: Yes.She had never loved the man she had married. What she loved was all
the money he had. Then Mr Bottomley came along. He had money too and
she loved him. But she had to get Mr Makepeace out of the way.
12 The swimming pool is only open to the public in the mornings. I use it.
11 This is the job. I've always wanted it.
10 Is Technico the company? Sarah works for them.
9 People often have very little money to spend on leisure. They have a lot
of leisure time.
8 Is she the new television presenter? Everyone's talking about her.
7 The woman is coming back to work soon. I'm doing her job.
6 You can buy the pasta from that Italian shop. It has just opened in the
5 Most of the books are still popular today. I read them as a child.
4 I'm looking for the person. I've just hit their car.
3 I like books. They make you think about things.
2 I don't like the people. They are staying with the Browns.
58 Non-defining relative clauses
Look at the difference between these two sentences:
1 The boy who lives next door is having a party tonight.
The underlined clause is a defining relative clause. It tells us which boy is
being talked about.
There are no commas before and after a defining relative clause.
2 Darren, who lives next door, is having a party tonight.
The underlined clause is a non-defining relative clause. It does not tell us
which boy we are talking about; we already know that from the name. It gives
us extra information about Darren.
A non-defining relative clause in the middle of a sentence has a comma before
and after it. A non-defining relative clause at the end of a sentence has a
comma before it and a full stop at the end.
• Subject relative pronouns:
This is my friend lane, who has just returned from Italy.
The relative pronoun who refers to Iane and it functions as the subject of the
verb has ... returned in the relative clause.
Mike's car, which is only six months old, broke down last night.
The relative pronoun which refers to Mike's car and it functions as the subject
of the verb is in the relative clause.
• Object relative pronouns:
The woman next door, who/whom I met for the first time last week, is moving
Who or whom refer to the woman next door and function as the object of the
verb met in the relative clause.
Whom is more formal and is generally used in formal written English.
Who is more common in spoken English.
15 We haven't seen the friends for ten years. They are coming to visit us
14 My favourite holiday was that one. We spent it in a cottage in the
13 We've just bought a computer package. It teaches you how to play the