A relative pronoun is a type of pronoun that we use to join two clauses to form a longer sentence. Relative pronouns are words such as that, which, who, whom, when, whose, whatever, whichever, whoever, whomever, whichsoever, whosoever, whomsoever, whosesoever, whatsoever. They are used to introduce dependent clauses, of which they act as the subject.

Bob is my good friend who helped to repair my lawn mower.
(There are two clauses here: Bob is my good friend [main clause] and who helped to repair my lawn mower [dependent clause]. The relative pronoun who is the subject of the dependent clause.)
 

Relative pronouns should not be confused with subordinating or coordinating conjunctions. They are used in different ways. Subordinating conjunctions do not take the role of the subject of the dependent (subordinate) clause. They are in fact followed by the subject of the dependent clause. 

The adults chatted while the children played.
(The main clause is the adults chatted and the dependent clause is while the children played. The subjects of both clauses are adults and children. The subordinating conjunction while is not the subject of the dependent clause; it is followed by the subject.)
 

 

Examples:

Joining two clauses using relative pronouns who and that.

Examples:

  • The man is a visitor of a patient. He is dressed like a doctor.
  • The man who is dressed like a doctor is a visitor of a patient.

  

Who in the example above is used to refer to a man. The noun man is the antecedent of who.

 

Examples:

  • She bought a pair of running shoes. She could use it for jogging.
  • She bought a pair of running shoes that she could use for jogging.

 

That in the relative clause is used to replace the shoes which is the antecedent of the relative pronoun that.

 

 

 

 

A relative pronoun comes at the beginning of a relative clause. This subordinate clause comes immediately after the noun in the main clause.

  • I know the dog that bit my cat 

In this sentence, the relative pronoun is that and it introduces the relative clause that bit my cat. The main clause is I know the dog. The relative clause tells us more about the noun dog in the main clause.

 

 

We use that and which in almost the same way as we use who, but they refer to animals and things, not people. There is a difference in using which and who. After which, we can use a verb, a pronoun or a noun. After who, we usually use a verb.

Examples:

  • That was the camera, which cost five hundred dollars. (Before verb cost)
  • That was the camera, which he bought yesterday. (Before pronoun he)
  • That was the camera, which John got as a birthday present. (Before noun John)

 

The relative pronouns who is used for people, and whose for people and things. We can use who to join two sentences.  

Examples:

  • Who

     lives in that 300-year-old mansion? 

     
  • That is the man, who is my father's bitter enemy.  

In the last sentence, who refers to man which is a noun in the main clause, and it begins the relative clause who is my father’s bitter enemy 

Whose is used to show possession or relationship for both people and things.

  • That is my uncle whose wife has run away with his twin brother.
  • That is an empty house whose owner is in prison.

 

 

Whom is used to make a statement about human beings. It is used in place of who when it is the object of a verb or when it comes after a preposition or is an object of a preposition.

Examples:

  • The man whom the police arrested was a police officer. (Object of a verb)
  • The man to whom you should speak is the manager. (Object of a preposition/after a preposition)

 

 

Whosoever is hardly used nowadays. It has about the same meaning as whoever.
  • The preacher warns that whosoever disbelieves him will not be blessed.