Definition: We use the relative pronouns to refer to a noun mentioned before and of whichwe are adding more information. They are used to join two or more sentences and forming inthat way what we call "relative sentences". Relative pronouns Who, Whom, That, Which whoever, whomever, whicheverFor example: People who speak two languages are called bilingual. * In this example, the relative "who" introduces the relative sentence "speak two languages" that describes or gives more information about the noun "people".Relative pronouns: Subject or ObjectAs the relative pronouns relate to another noun preceding it in the sentence, they connect adependent clause to an antecedent (a noun that precedes the pronoun.) Therefore, relativepronouns acts as the subject or object of the dependent clause.For example: The chef who won the competition studied in Paris. * Here, "who" relates back to (or is relative to) the noun "Chef". "Who" also acts as the subject of the dependent clause and the verb "won". => The dependent clause: who won the competition. => The independent clause: The chef studied in Paris. The shirt that Carl bought has a stain on the pocket. * Here, "that" relates back to (or is relative to) the noun "shirt". "That" is also the object of the verb "bought". => The dependent clause is: that Carl bought. => The independent clause: The shirt has a stain on the pocket.Referring to people: Who, Whom, Whoever, WhomeverThese pronouns take a different case depending on whether the relative pronoun is a subjector an object in the dependent clause. 1. Subjective case Use the subjective case when these relative pronouns are the subject (initiating the action) of the dependent clause: Who, Whoever For example: Negotiations were not going smoothly between the two leaders, who made no bones about not liking each other. * "Who" relates back to the noun "leaders" and is the subject of the dependent clause and the verb "made".
Most workers, whoever was not employed by the auto manufacturer, toiled at one of the millions of little minnow companies. * "Whoever" relates back to the noun "workers" and is the subject of the dependent clause and the verb "was employed". Objective caseUse the objective case when these relative pronouns are the object (receiving the action) ofthe dependent clause: Whom, Whomever For example: This is the approach taken by journalists, whom some consider to be objective. * "Whom" relates back to the noun "journalists" and is the object of the verb "consider". The subject of the dependent clause is "some". The three representatives, whomever the committee chooses, should be at the meeting tomorrow. * "Whomever" relates back to the noun representatives and is the object of the verb "chooses". The subject of the dependent clause is "Committee".Referring to a place, thing or idea: Which, ThatWhen using relative pronouns for places, things or ideas, rather than determining case, thewriter must decide whether the information in the dependent clause is essential to themeaning of the independent clause or simply additional information.When information is critical to the understanding of the main clause, use That as theappropriate relative pronoun and do not set the information off by commas.For example: Russian generals have delivered a message that is difficult to ignore. * "That" relates back to the noun "message" and is necessary for the reader to know what "message" the sentence is about. There is another factor that obviously boosts the reputation of both of these men. * "That" relates back to the noun "factor" and is necessary for the reader to know what "factor" the sentence is about.When information is not critical to the understanding of the main clause, use "Which" as theappropriate relative pronoun and set the information off by commas.For example: The toughest intramural fight of all for Clinton was the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he undertook a full year before the 1994 election. * "Which" relates back to the noun "agreement" and the information following it is not necessary for the reader to know what "agreement" the sentence is about.
Clinton refused to head toward the center on affirmative action and abortion, which are the two most sacred issues to the traditional liberal wing of the party. * "Wich" relates back to the noun "affirmative action and abortion" and the information following it is not necessary for the reader to know what "affirmative action and abortion" the sentence is about.When referring to more than one place, thing or idea use these relative pronouns: Whatever,WhicheverFor example: The three approaches, whichever works is fine, produce a more ambiguous picture of a man. * "Whichever" relates to the noun "approaches" and the information contained within the commas is additional, not critical information. Any excessive profits, whatever exceeded accepted limits, would attract the notice of representatives. * "Whatever" relates to the noun "profits" and the information contained within the commas is additional, not critical information.Relative PronounsA relative pronoun is a pronoun that introduces a relative clause. It is called a "relative"pronoun because it "relates" to the word that it modifies. Here is an example: The person who phoned me last night is my teacher.In the above example, "who": relates to "person", which it modifies introduces the relative clause "who phoned me last night"There are five relative pronouns: who, whom, whose, which, that*Who (subject) and whom (object) are generally only for people. Whose is for possession.Which is for things. That can be used for people** and things and as subject and object indefining relative clauses (clauses that are essential to the sentence and do not simply addextra information).Relative pronouns can refer to singular or plural, and there is no difference between male andfemale.Look at these examples showing defining and non-defining relative clauses:
example sentences notes S=subject, O=object, P=possessive - The person who phoned me last night is my teacher. That is preferable - The person that phoned me last night S is my teacher. - The car which hit me was yellow. That is preferable - The cars that hit me were yellow. - The person whom I phoned last night is my teacher. - The people who I phoned last night are Whom is correct but very my teachers. formal. The relative pronoun - The person that I phoned last night is is optional. my teacher. O - The person I phoned last night is mydefining teacher. - The car which I drive is old. That is preferable to which. - The car that I drive is old. The relative pronoun is - The car I drive is old. optional. - The student whose phone just rang should stand up. - Students whose parents are wealthy pay extra. P - The police are looking for the car Of which is usual for things, whose driver was masked. but whose is sometimes - The police are looking for the car of possible which the driver was masked. - Mrs Pratt, who is very kind, is my teacher. S - The car, which was a taxi, exploded. - The cars, which were taxis, exploded.non-defining - Mrs Pratt, whom I like very much, is my teacher. Whom is correct but very - Mr and Mrs Pratt, who I like very formal. Who is normal. O much, are my teachers. - The car, which I was driving at the time, suddenly caught fire.
- My brother, whose phone you just heard, is a doctor. - The car, whose driver jumped out just P before the accident, was completely Of which is usual for things, destroyed. but whose is sometimes - The car, the driver of which jumped possible out just before the accident, was completely destroyed.*Not all grammar sources count "that" as a relative pronoun.**Some people claim that we cannot use "that" for people but must use "who/whom"; there isno good reason for such a claim.Relative Pronouns in Restrictive Relative ClausesRelative pronouns that introduce a restrictive relative clause ARE NOT separated from themain clause by a comma. Restrictive relative clauses (also known as defining relativeclauses) add essential information about the antecedent in the main clause. The information iscrucial for understanding the sentences meaning correctly and cannot be omitted. In otherwords, without the restrictive relative clause, the sentence does not make sense.The table below sums up the use of relative pronouns in restrictive relative clauses: Reference toFunction inthe sentence People Things / concepts Place Time ExplanationSubject who, that which, thatObject (that, who, whom)* (which, that)* where when what/whyPossessive whose whose, of whichExamplesRelative pronouns used as a subject of a restrictive relative clause:This is the house that had a great Christmas decoration.It took me a while to get used to people who eat popcorn during the movie.Relative pronouns used as an object in a restrictive relative clause:
1) As can be seen from the table, referring to a person or thing, the relative pronoun may beomitted in the object position, but formal English includes the relative pronoun. When therelative pronoun is the object of a preposition, which is used instead of that, for example, "inwhich," "for which," "about which," "through which," etc. (please see the third examplebelow):Formal English: This is the man to whom I wanted to speak and whose name I hadforgotten.Informal English: This is the man (whom/that) I wanted to speak to and whose name Idforgotten.Formal English: The library did not have the book that I wanted.Informal English: The library didnt have the book I wanted.Formal English: This is the house where/in which I lived when I first came to the US.Informal English: This is the house I lived in when I first came to the US.2) In American English, whom is not used very often. "Whom" is more formal than "who"and is very often omitted while speaking:Grammatically Correct: The woman to whom you have just spoken is my teacher.Conversational Use: The woman you have just spoken to is my teacher.ORThe woman who you have just spoken to is my teacher.However, "whom" may not be omitted if preceded by a preposition because the relativepronoun functions as the object of the preposition:The visitor for whom you were waiting has arrived.Relative pronouns used as a possessive in a restrictive relative clause:Whose is the only possessive relative pronoun in English. The antecedent of "whose" can beboth people and things:The family whose house burnt in the fire was immediately given a complimentary suite in ahotel.The book whose author won a Pulitzer has become a bestseller.
Relative Pronouns in Non-Restrictive Relative ClausesAlthough similar in use, relative pronouns that introduce a non-restrictive relative clausesARE separated from the main clause by a comma (in most instances). Typically, which is thepreferred relative pronoun for indicating that a relative clause is non-restrictive. Non-restrictive relative clauses (also known as non-defining relative clauses) provide non-essential information about the antecedent in the main clause. The information is not crucialfor understanding the sentences meaning correctly and can be omitted without affecting thesentences meaning. In other words, non-restrictive relative clauses are an aside that add extrainformation.ExamplesRelative pronouns used as a subject of a non-restrictive relative clause:The science fair, which lasted all day, ended with an awards ceremony.The movie turned out to be a blockbuster hit, which came as a surprise to critics.Relative pronouns used as an object in a non-restrictive relative clause:The sculpture, which he admired, was moved into the basement of the museum to make roomfor a new exhibit.The theater, in which the play debuted, housed 300 people."That" vs. "Who" and "Which"The relative pronoun that can only be used in restrictive clauses. It can also be substituted forwho (referring to persons) or which (referring to things) in informal English. Whereas that isoften used while speaking, who and which are more common in formal written English.Conversationl, Informal: William Kellogg was the man that lived in the late 19th centuryand had some weird ideas about raising children.Written, Formal: William Kellogg was the man who lived in the late 19th century and hadsome weird ideas about raising children.Conversational, Informal: The café that sells the best coffee in town has recently beenclosed.Written, Formal: The café, which sells the best coffee in town, has recently been closed.
Some Special Uses of Relative Pronouns in Restrictive Clausesthat / whoWhen referring to people, both that and who can be used in informal language. "That" maybe used to refer to the characteristics or abilities of an individual or a group of people:He is the kind of person that/who will never let you down.I am looking for someone that/who could give me a ride to Chicago.However, when speaking about a particular person in formal language, who is preferred:The old lady who lives next door is a teacher.The girl who wore a red dress attracted everybodys attention at the party.that / whichThere are several cases when that is more appropriate than which:1) After the pronouns "all," "any(thing)," "every(thing)," "few," "little," "many," "much,""no(thing)," "none," "some(thing)":The police usually ask for every detail that helps identify the missing person.Dessert is all that he wants.2) After the noun modified by an adjective in the superlative degree:This is the best resource that I have ever read!