The relative pronouns are:

 

Subject Object Possessive
who who(m) whose
which which whose
that that  

 


We use who and whom for people, and which for things.
Or we can use that for people or things.

We use relative pronouns:

after a noun, to make it clear which person or thing we are talking about:

the house that Jack built
the woman who discovered radium
an eight-year-old boy who attempted to rob a sweet shop

to tell us more about a person or thing:

My mother, who was born overseas, has always been a great traveller.
Lord Thompson, who is 76, has just retired.
We had fish and chips, which is my favourite meal.

But we do not use that as a subject in this kind of relative clause.

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

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.

When whom 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.

We can use that at the beginning of the clause:

I had an uncle in Germany that I inherited a bit of money from.
We bought a chainsaw that we cut all the wood up with.

Exercise

Comments

Hello,

The sentence below gets me confused.

"Fewer than one in 100,000 people have died in combat per year since 2000—one-sixth the rate between 1950 and 2000, and one-fiftieth of that between 1900 and 1950."

I understand those rates in the sentence (one in each 100.000 people since 2000,one in each 6 people between 1950 and 2000,one in each 15 people between 1900-1950) respectively. Is this true?

Can we say "one-sixth the rate(which is) between 1950 and 2000" and "one-fiftieth of that(which is) between 1900 and 1950."?

Thank you for your help.

Hello Goktug123,

There are three rates in this sentence.

(1) fewer than 1 in 100,000

(2) the rate between 1950 and 2000, which was six times higher than the rate in (1)

(3) the rate between 1900 and 1950, which was fifty times higher than the rate in (1)

 

In other words, 'one-sixth' does not mean 'one in six', but rather tells us that the rate was 6 in 100,000 between 1950 and 2000.

'One fiftieth' does not mean 'one in fifty', but rather tells us that the rate was 50 in 100,000 between 1900 and 1950.

We would not use 'which' here. You can say 'the rate between 1950 and 2000', 'the rate of (the period) 1950-2000' or 'the 1950-2000 rate'.

 

Please note that we generally do not answer questions about sentences from elsewhere. We're happy to explain examples from our own pages or try to answer more general questions about the language, but answering questions from other sources is something we rarely do as, first, we have limited time and, second, we do not know the source and the author's intention, making interpretation difficult.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Is what a relative pronoun? How many relative adverbs are there in English? Plz tell me sir.

Hello rajusikar,

'What' is not a relative pronoun.

 

You can read a good summary of English relative pronouns and their use on this page:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/pronouns/relative-pronouns

 

It is possible for adverbial clauses to function as relative clauses. These can be introduced with various adverbs, the most common of which are 'where', 'when', why', 'whenever' and 'wherever'. You can see some examples at the bottom of this page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_relative_clauses#Adverbials

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Mr Peter M,
thanks for your response. Maybe I wasn't too clear in my question. In the sentence below, will it be grammatically correct to use "was"?

- One of the boys who was/were having tea in the cafe witnessed the incident.

"One of the boys" refers to one of many boys, so we would usually say that "One of the boys was.....". However, when a pronoun "who" is inserted into the sentence, is it true that the tense has to agree with the antecedent before the pronoun (in this case, the antecedent is "boys")? If so, it is therefore grammatically correct that only "were" has to be used?

Thanks for your patience.

Hi Saffron,

I think the plural verb is the correct option here, assuming that there are many boys having tea and we are talking about one of them.

 

If only one boy is having tea then we have two choices. We could use a defining relative clause and not the phrase 'one of':

The boy who was having tea...

 

 

Alternatively, we could use a non-defining relative clause:

One of the boys, who was having tea, witnessed...

This would require commas around the clause, as above.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
are the following correct?
1) One of the boys has a pet dog.
2) One of the boys who were having tea in the cafe witnessed the incident.

Hi Saffron,

Yes, those sentences look perfectly fine to me.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Mr Peter M.
So pronouns like 'who', 'that' and 'which' become singular or plural according to the noun directly in front of them?

Hello Saffron,

Those pronouns can all refer to singular or plural nouns.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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