Relative Pronouns:

Relative pronouns, as their name suggests show relation of a noun or a pronoun preceding them with the rest of the sentence. They relate a noun or a pronoun with a piece of extra or essential information with the help of relative clauses.

Words like who, whom, which, that, whose are some common relative pronouns. Other relative pronouns are when, where, whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever,  and whichever.

To understand relative pronouns completely one should have knowledge of defining and non-defining clauses. So, let us look at some important terms.

Relative Clause: A clause that gives some essential or extra information about a noun or pronoun and has a relative pronoun is known as a relative clause. It acts as an adjective. It is of two types: Defining or Non- defining relative clause.

Defining Clause: Relative clause that provides essential information about the noun or pronoun  preceding it is known as defining clause. It defines the antecedent and help one to identify that antecedent. It is also known as a Restrictive Clause.

  • They saw the man who was missing from last two years.

The underlined part is the relative clause. It is giving essential information about the ‘man’ so that we know which man is talked about.

Non-Defining Clause: Relative clause that provides an extra information about the noun or pronoun  preceding it is known as defining clause. It just provides additional information about that antecedent. It is also known as Non-Restrictive Clause.

  • Uncle John, who was missing from last two years, was seen by our neighbors today.

The underlined part is the non-relative clause. It is giving additional information about the ‘man’. Without this information also the noun is specifically recognizable.

Now that we know these basic terms, let us discuss each relative pronoun in detail.

WHO:

It is used for people and sometimes for animals. It is used for both singular and plural nouns. It is used in both defining and non-defining clauses. Who is used as subject, or we can say who replaces a noun of subjective case. But in spoken it can be used as an object as well.

Examples of use in Defining Clause:

  • The new student who has earned scholarship is highly intelligent. (subjective case)
  • The girl who lives next door is a model. (subjective case)
  • The girl who she saw last night is my cousin. (objective case – grammatically incorrect but can be used in spoken)
  • The dog who cried all night is Mr. Lords pet. (subjective case)

Examples of use in Non-Defining Clause:

  • This girl named Jennifer, who completed her graduation from Oxford, is a model. (subjective case)
  • This girl named Jennifer, who you called, is a model. (objective case – grammatically incorrect but can be used in spoken)
  • My uncle Sebastian, who came to see us last year, was a soldier. (subjective case)

WHICH:

Which is used for things (non-living) and animals. They may be singular or plural. It can be used in both defining and non-defining clauses. And it can replace both, a noun of subjective case or objective case.

Sometimes, which can also be used to refer to an entire sentence or clause. For this purpose, it is only used in non-defining clauses.

Examples of use in Defining Clause:

  • This is the movie which caused a lot of sensation. (subjective case)
  • My mother is fond of those songs which have good lyrics. (subjective case)
  • The bird which I recently bought is of a rare breed. (subjective case)

Examples of use in Non-Defining Clause:

  • She gave me this dress, which she had bought for herself. (subjective case)
  • My mother loves old school songs, which have good lyrics. (subjective case)
  • They purchased the same Hyundai car, which we bought last month. (objective case)
  • They finally decide to accept their fault, which was a good decision. (used to refer a sentence)
  • The man claimed that he was asleep when the theft took place, which was a lie. (used to refer a sentence)

WHOM:

Which is used for things (non-living) and animals. They may be singular or plural. It can be used in both defining and non-defining clauses. And it can replace both, a noun of subjective case or objective case.

Sometimes, which can also be used to refer to an entire sentence or clause. For this purpose, it is only used in non-defining clauses.

Examples of use in Defining Clause:

  • He is the manager whom we called yesterday.
  • I am not satisfied with the doctor whom you consulted.
  • Can you give me the address of the mechanic whom you called to repair your car?

Examples of use in Non-Defining Clause:

  • Today we met Charles, whom we have not seen for a long time.
  • He is looking for Mr. Peter, whom he considers his inspiration.
  • Should I say sorry to Lilly, whom I hit in the lobby by mistake?

THAT:

That is used for persons and things. They may be singular or plural. It used in both subjective and objective case. But ‘that’ is only used in defining clauses. ‘That’ can be used instead of who, whom and which in defining clauses.

Examples:

  • The car which is parked in front of your house is very expensive.
  • The car that is parked in front of your house is very expensive.

  • She is talking about the lady who won this competition last year.
  • She is talking about the lady that won this competition last year.

  • The actor in this picture is whom you saw in London.
  • The actor in this picture is that you saw in London.

WHOSE:

Whose indicates possessive case. It replaces nouns of possessive case in relative clauses. It is used for persons and things, both singular and plural. It is used in both defining and non-defining clauses.

Examples of use in Defining Clause:

  • The story is about a cop whose children went missing.
  • Students whose assignments are incomplete are to be punished.
  • He is the only president whose wife was a social worker.

Examples of use in Non-Defining Clause:

  • Jimmy, whose house is in a small town, is very generous.
  • Meet Kim, whose room you will be sharing.
  • This is the café, whose coffee is quite famous.

WHERE:

Where is used for places in both defining and non-defining clauses. It can also be referred to as an relative adverb.

Examples of use in Defining Clause:

  • I am taking you to the place where I used live with my grandparents.
  • This is the place where our new office will be.

Examples of use in Non-Defining Clause:

  • We are going to our hometown, where you were born.
  • Have you ever been to Canada, where your cousin works?

WHEN:

When is used for time. It is used only in defining clauses. It can also be referred to as an relative adverb.

Examples:

  • I met him when he was six years old.
  • We will leave when the rain stops.
  • They will leave in the evening when Sam arrives.

Ø Relative Pronouns with Prepositions

Relative pronouns can also be used with prepositions as objects of prepositions. There are two structures to use relative pronouns with prepositions. Either the prepositions is placed right before the relative pronoun or at the end of the clause, away from the relative pronoun.

Remember, with relative pronoun ‘that’ the preposition always comes at the end of the clause.

Examples:

  • This is Mr. Kaul, who I am working for.
  • Do you know the woman with whom Catherin left the town?
  • There is a bakery at the end of the street at which you can find the most delicious cakes.
  • I am looking for the chair that I was sitting on.
  • My uncle called his friend in whose house he used to live.

Ø WHO and WHICH can be omitted in defining clauses if they are the object

In a defining clause if relative pronouns ‘Who’ and ‘Which’ are the objects, they can be dropped without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Examples:

  • The book which you gave me is very interesting.
  • The book you gave me is very interesting. (here the relative pronoun ‘which is the object of the clause and is used for book. Dropping it makes no change in the meaning or grammar of the sentence.)
  • The teacher who you were looking for yesterday is on a leave of three days.
  • The teacher you were looking for yesterday is on a leave of three days. (here the relative pronoun ‘who is the object of the clause and is used for teacher. Dropping it makes no change in the meaning or grammar of the sentence.)

Ø Compound Relative Pronouns

Compound pronouns are formed by adding -ever at the end of certain relative pronouns. Whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever,  and whichever are the compound relative pronouns.

First let us look at the meaning of each of these words:

Whoever = Anyone who

Whichever = Anything, Any which, Any of the given choices.

Whatever = Anything or everything that, no matter what

Whenever = Any time

Wherever = Any place

Examples:

  • Whoever cleans the room first gets the reward.
  • You can come and see me whenever you feel like.
  • Police will find him, wherever he has hidden.
  • Whatever happens, don’t leave your dreams.
  • You can take whichever book you like.

    #KEY-NOTES:
    • Relative pronouns show relation of the antecedent preceding them with the rest of the sentence.
    • They are used to give essential of extra information about a noun or pronoun.
    • Words like who, whom, which, that, whose are some common relative pronouns.
    • Whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever,  and whichever are compound relative pronouns which are formed by adding ‘-ever’ at the end of certain common relative pronouns.
    • Use of relative pronouns depends on the noun and types of clause.
    • For Person: who, whom, that, whose.   For Things: which, that, whose.
     
    #SUMMARY:

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