What are relative pronouns?



A 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*
Relative pronouns
who subject or object pronoun for people
They caught the lady who killed her baby.
I know the man who you met.
whichsubject or object pronoun
I read the book which is on the table.
I visited the town which you told me about.
which referring to a whole sentence
They were unsuccessful which is disappointing.
whom used for object pronoun for people, especially in non-restrictive relative clauses (in restrictive relative clauses use who)
The boy whom you told me about got the best grades in mathematics.
that subject or object pronoun for people, animals and things in restrictive relative clauses (who or which are also possible)
I like the vase that is over there.
Look at these examples showing defining and non-defining relative clauses:


example sentences
S=subject, O=object, P=possessive
notes
defining relative clauses
S
- The person who phoned me last night is my teacher.
- The person that phoned me last night is my teacher.
That is preferable
- The car which hit me was yellow.
- The car that hit me was yellow.
That is preferable
O
- The person whom I phoned last night is my teacher.
- The people who I phoned last night are my teachers.
- The person that I phoned last night is my teacher. - The person I phoned last night is my teacher.

Whom is correct but formal. The relative pronoun is optional.
- The car which I drive is old.
- The car that I drive is old.
- The car I drive is old.

That is preferable to which. The relative pronoun is optional.
P
- The student whose phone just rang should stand up.
- Students whose parents are wealthy pay extra.

- The police are looking for the carwhose driver was masked.
- The police are looking for the car of which the driver was masked.
Whose can be used with things. Of which is also possible.
non-defining relative clauses
S
- Mrs Pratt, who is very kind, is my teacher.

- The car, which was a taxi, exploded.
- The cars, which were taxis, exploded.

O
- Mrs Pratt, whom I like very much, is my teacher.
- Mrs Pratt, who I like very much, is my teacher.
Whom is correct but formal. Who is common in spoken English and informal written English.
- The car, which I was driving at the time, suddenly caught fire.

P
- My brother, whose phone you just heard, is a doctor.

- The car, whose driver jumped out just before the accident, was completely destroyed.
- The car, the driver of which jumped out just before the accident, was completely destroyed.
Whose can be used with things. Of which is also possible.



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