* Relative pronouns do two jobs at once. They are used as the subjects or objects of verbs, like other pronouns; at the same time, they join clauses together, like conjunctions. Compare:

What’s the name of the blonde girl? She just came in? What’s the name of the blonde girl who just came in?

In the second example, who replaces she as the subject of came, and also allows to join the two sentences into one.

* The most common relative pronouns are who, whom, which and that. Who and whom are used for people; which is used for things.

I don’t like people who lose their tempers easily.
Mexico City, which has a population of over 10 million, is probably the fastest growing city in the


* Whom (which refers to the object of a verb or a preposition) is rather unusual, especially in conversational English. It is generally either left out, or replaced by who or that. It is almost impossible in clauses that end with a preposition. Compare:

I think you should stay faithful to the person you’re married to. (Or: … the person who / that you’re married to.) (Conversational style).
Do you think one should stay faithful to the person to whom one is married? (Formal style).

* That can often (but not always) be used instead of whom or which, and quite often instead of who. The trumpet’s the instrument that really excites me.

She’s the only person that understands me.

* After nouns referring to times and places, when and where can be used to mean at which or in which. After the word reason, why is used to mean for which.

Can you suggest a time when it will be convenient to meet? I know a wood where you can find wild strawberries.
Is there any reason why you should have a holiday?

* Whose is a possessive relative word.
This is Henry, whose wife works for my brother-in-law


These describe the preceding noun in such a way as to distinguish it from other nouns of the same class. A clause of this kind is essential the clear understanding of the noun:

The man who told me this refused to give me his name.
‘who told me this’ is the relative clause. If we omit this, it is not clear what man we are talking about.

Notice that there is no comma between a noun and a defining relative clause: 40

The noise that he made woke everybody up.

The forms of relative pronouns used in defining relative clauses are as follows.





For persons

who that

who / whom that


For things

which that

which that

whose / of which

1. Defining relative clauses: persons A) Subject: who or that

who is normally used:

The man who robbed you has been arrested.
The girls who were in the shop are the owner’s daughters.
The policeman who reported the accident thinks it was Tom’s fault. The book is about a man who deserts his wife.
The film is about a group of people who are trapped in a lift.

that is much less usual than who except after superlatives and after all, nobody, no one, somebody, someone, anybody etc., when either who or that can be used.

He was the best king who / that ever sat on the throne. All who / that heard him were delighted.

B) Object of a verb: whom or who or that

The object form is whom, but this is considered very formal and seldom used in spoken English. Instead of whom, therefore, in spoken English we use who or that (that being more usual than who) and it is still more common to omit the object pronoun altogether:

The man whom I saw told me to come back today. or The man who I saw…

or The man that I saw…
or The man I saw… (relative pronoun omitted)

The girls whom he employs are always complaining about their long hours. or The girls that he employs…
or The girl he employs… (relative pronoun omitted).

C) With a preposition: whom or that.

In formal English the preposition is placed before the relative pronoun, which must then be put into the form whom:

The man to whom I spoke…

In informal speech, however, it is more usual to move the preposition to the end of the clause. whom then is often replaced by that, but it is still more common to omit the relative altogether:

The man from whom I bought it told me to oil it. or The man who/whom I bought it from…
or The man I bought it from…

The French with whom I was travelling could speak French. or The friend who/whom I was travelling with…
or The friend that I was travelling with…
or The friend I was travelling with…

D) Possessive

whose is the only possessive form:
People whose rents have been raised can appeal.

The film is about a spy whose wife betrays him.

2. Defining relative clauses: things A) Subject

Either which or that; which is the more formal;
This is the picture which / that caused such a sensation.

The stairs which / that lead to the cellar are rather slippery.

B) Object of a verb

which or that, or no relative at all
The car which / that I hired broke down after five kilometres

or The car I hired broke down after five kilometres. c) Object of a preposition

The formal construction is preposition + which, but it is more usual to move the preposition to the end of the clause, using which or that or omitting the relative altogether:

The ladder on which I was standing began to slip.
or The ladder which/that I was standing on began to slip. or The ladder I was standing on began to slip.

Note that when can replace in / on which (used of time):

the day when they arrived the year when he was born

where can replace in / at which (used of place):

the hotel where they were staying

why can replace for which:

The reason why he refused is…

when, where and why used in this way are called relative adverbs.

D) Possessive

whose + a clause is possible but can often be replaced by with + a phrase. Living in a house whose walls were made of glass would be horrible.

Living in a house with glass walls would be horrible.

3. The relative pronoun what

what = the thing that/ the things that etc.:

The things that we was astonished us.

  • =  What we saw astonished us.

    When she sees the damage that you have done she will be furious

  • =  When she sees what you have done she will be furious.

    Be careful not to confuse the relative what with the connective relative which. Remember that which must refer to a word or group of words in the preceding sentence, while what does not refer back to anything. The relative what is also usually the object of a verb, while the connective which is usually the subject.

    He said he had no money, which was not true.
    Some of the roads were flooded, which made our journey more difficult.

    4. Cleft sentences

    If we want to give a special importance to one part of a sentence, we can put it into a separate clause. There are two common ways of doing this. One is to use the structure It is / was…that…; the other is to use What…is / was…. Compare:

    Harry told the police. It was Harry that told the police. I need a beer. What I need is a beer.

    The sentence with it gives special importance to Harry; the sentence with what emphasizes a beer. Sentences like these are called ‘cleft sentences’ by grammarians (cleft means ‘divided’).


    Non-defining relative clauses are placed after nouns which are definite already. They do not therefore define the noun, but merely add something to it by giving some more information about it. Unlike defining relative clauses, they are not essential in the sentence and can be omitted without causing confusion. Also unlike defining relatives, they are separated from their noun by commas. The pronoun can never be omitted in a non-defining relative clause. The construction is fairly formal and more common in written than in spoken English.

    The relative pronouns used in non-defining relative clauses are as follows.





For persons


who / whom


For things



whose / of which

1. Use for persons: who , whom, whose

A) Subject: who

No other pronoun is possible, note the commas.

My neighbour, who is very pessimistic, says there will be no apples this year. Peter, who had been driving all day, suggested stopping at the next town.

B) Object: whom, who

The pronoun cannot be omitted. whom is the correct form, though who is sometimes used in conversation:

Peter, whom everyone suspected, turned out to be innocent.

C) Object of a preposition: whom

The pronoun cannot be omitted. The preposition is normally placed before whom:

Mr Jones, for whom I was working, was very generous about overtime payments.

It is however possible to move the preposition to the end of the clause. This is commonly done in conversation, and who then often takes the place of whom:

Mr Jones, who/whom I was working for,…

If the clause contains an expression of time or place, this will remain at the end: Peter, with whom I played tennis on Sundays, was fitter than I was could become

Peter, who / whom I played tennis with on Sundays, was fitter than I was.

D) Possessive: whose

Ann, whose children are at school all day, is trying to get a job. I congratulated Mrs Jones, whose son had won the high jump.

2. Use for things: which, whose A) Subject: which

that is not used here:
That tower block, which cost £5 million to build, has been empty for five years.

The 8.15 train, which is usually very punctual, was late today.

B) Object: which

that is not used here, and the which can never be omitted: She gave me this jumper, which she had knitted herself.

These books, which you can get at any bookshop, will give you all the information you need.

C) Object of a preposition

The preposition comes before which, or (more informally) at the end of the clause:

Ashdown forest, through which we’ll be driving, isn’t a forest any longer or Ashdown Forest, which we’ll be driving through, isn’t…

His house, for which he paid £10,000 ten years ago, is now worth twice as much. or His house, which he paid £10,000 for ten years ago, is now…

D) which with phrasal verbs

Combinations such as look forward to, look after, put up with should be treated as a unit, i.e. the preposition/adverb should not be separated from the verb:

This machine, which I have looked after for twenty years, is still working perfectly.
Your inefficiency, which we have put up with far too long, is beginning to annoy our customers.

D) Possessive: whose or of which

whose is generally used both for animals and things. of which, for things, is possible but unusual except in very formal English:

His house, whose windows were all broken, was a depressing sight.
The car, whose handbrake wasn’t very reliable, began to slide backwards.

3. both / some / most / all / several / few etc. + of + whom / which

This form can be used for both people and things:

Her brothers, both of whom work in Scotland, ring her up every week.
I met the fruit-pickers, several of whom (or five etc. of whom) were university students.
The house was full of boys, ten of whom were his own grandchildren.
The buses, most of which were already full, were surrounded by an angry crowd.
I picked up the apples, some of which were badly bruised.
He went up the mountain with a group of people, few of whom were correctly equipped for such a



These have the same form and take the same pronouns as non-defining relative clauses. They are usually placed after the object of the main verb:

I told Peter, who said it wasn’t his business.

or after the preposition + noun:

I threw the ball to Tom, who threw it to Ann.

Connective clauses do not describe their nouns but continue the story. They can be replaced by and or but:

I told Peter, but he said…
I threw the ball to Tom and he threw it…

Sometimes it may be difficult to say whether a clause in this position is non-defining or connective. But there is no need for students to make this distinction, as there is no difference between the two forms.

More examples of connective clauses:

He ate fungus, which made him ill.
He went with Peter, whose car broke down before we were halfway there.

We can use one / two etc., some / several / few etc. + of + whom / which, as shown before.

I bought a dozen eggs, six of which broke when I dropped the box at my door.
He introduced me to his children, one of whom offered to go with me as a guide.
The lorry crashed into a queue of people, several of whom had to have hospital treatment.

what cannot be used as a connective relative.


These have a variety of meanings and can introduce relative and other clauses.
A) whoever, whichever (pronoun and adjective) can mean ‘the one who’, ‘he who’, ‘she who’:

Whoever gains the most points wins the competition.
Whichever of them gains the most points wins (whichever used as a pronoun). Whichever team gains the most points wins (whichever used as an adjective).

B) whatever (pronoun ad adjective), whenever, wherever

You can eat whatever you like (anything you like).
When you are older you can watch whatever programme you like.
My roof leaks whenever it rains (every time it rains).
You will see this product advertised wherever you go. (everywhere you go).

C) whoever, whichever, whatever, whenever, wherever, however can mean ‘no matter who’ etc.:

If I say ‘heads, I win; tails you lose’, I will win whatever happens or whichever way the coin falls. Whatever happens don’t forget to write.

I’ll find him, wherever he has gone (no matter where he has gone).

whatever you do is often placed before or after a request / command to emphasize its importance:

Whatever you do, don’t mention my name.

however is and adverb of degree and is used with an adjective or another adverb: I’d rather have a room of my own, however small (it is), than share a room.

However hard I worked she was never satisfied.

D) whatever, wherever can indicate the speaker’s ignorance or indifference:
He lives in Wick, wherever that is. (I don’t know where it is, and I’m not interested.)

He says he’s a phrenologist, whatever that is. (I don’t know what it is and I’m not very interested).
E) who ever? when ever? what ever? etc. may be written as separate words, but the meaning then changes. ever

here is not necessary in the sentence but is added to emphasize the speaker’s surprise / astonishment / anger / irritation / dismay. It has the same meaning as on earth / in the world.

A: I lost seven kilos in a month.

B: How ever did you lost so much in such a short time?

A: (suspiciously): I know all about you!

B: (indignantly): What ever do you mean?

Where ever did you buy your wonderful carpets?

December 20, 2015

0 responses on "UNIT VI: RELATIVE CLAUSES"

Leave a Message

Setup Menus in Admin Panel