English Grammar Guide for ESL

Relative Pronouns (e.g.: who, that, which, etc.)

In this section: Description, Exercises


Overview of Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns identify nouns that have been used in a sentence and provide extra information about that noun. For example, The man who works there is named Richard. Here, we see that the relative pronoun who is used to make a link between a noun (the man) and information about the noun.

Let's look at the relative pronouns used in English:

who: is a subject pronoun that refers to people; it is also used after prepositions, e.g.: for who, to who (though whom is also used in this context).

that: can be used to refer to a subject (The person that works here is French) or an object (The person that I saw is French).

There are also cases where the form that is not a relative pronoun, but rather a conjunction (e.g.: He said that you are nice) where it simply joins two clauses.

which: is used to link to a subject that corresponds to a preceding statement. For example, She said she was fluent in Japanese, which surprised me. Note that the relative pronoun which is usually preceded by a comma.

whoever: is used to refer to an undetermined subject, e.g.: I will give the money to whoever needs it most.

whatever: is used to refer to an undetermined object, e.g.: I will buy whatever you need.

whose: is a possessive form, e.g.: I know a woman whose child plays piano. Be careful not to confuse this form with the contraction who's ("who is").

where: is used to link a location to a statement, e.g.: My home is a place where I feel safe. Be careful not to confuse this with were (from the verb be)

  • Don't use a subject pronoun after who, e.g.: The woman who works with me and not The woman who she works with me.
  • Don't use an object pronoun if there's already a relative pronoun (like that or which), e.g.: Write The person that I saw and not The person that I saw him.
In this section: Description, Exercises

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